Free Speech Is Dead, Donald Sterling Edition


Sam Wilkinson

According to a faithful reader, I'm Ordinary Times's "least thoughtful writer." So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

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310 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Should someone fired for making an unpleasant comment be eligible for unemployment?Report

    • Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

      Yes, even though most employment is at-will, an employer has to prove that an employee isn’t worthy of unemployment insurance. An unpleasant comment doesn’t rise to that level.Report

      • Avatar Adam says:

        Depends on how unpleasant it is. I’ve done some volunteer work with a nonprofit that represents unemployment claimants at appeals hearings, and there definitely are scenarios where one comment could get you denied benefits if it was bad enough and damaged the business enough. It’d take a lot, though.Report

  2. Avatar cm says:

    Hello Sam, yes I do agree that his private conversation should have not been recorded or released, but just curious, do you believe that if that recording never existed and if Sterling only made racist comments in public, like for example, say if he was on the Today show, or on Good Morning America, and made those comments, do you think it would have been more acceptable for the NBA to kick him out?

    I personally think racism of any kind is never ok, but I was just wondering what you’d think if those comments were only made publicly.Report

  3. Avatar j r says:

    This is an odd post. Why be sarcastic about something that almost no one actually believes? I don’t see the point; unless it to try to take the the near-universal agreement on Sterling and use it to back into an argument about Eich and Rice. If that’s it though, it doesn’t work very well, because these are different cases.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      Yes, this post is strange. The words “free speech” are not exclusively defined by the Constitution. It’s perfectly reasonable to believe a robust free speech culture includes not being fired for holding beliefs shared by a majority of the voting public at the time, whatever the Constitution says. (Which I don’t think really matters in the case of Donald Sterling.)

      What’s odd is liberals used to understand this, and argue against libertarians who had a such a pitifully thin conception of what a free society means, back in the stone ages of a couple months ago. I guess we don’t have to worry about women being silenced on twitter by obnoxious sexist trolls anymore, because the Constitution says nothing about that.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        Y’all need to click on his penultimate link.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I would like to point out that “Someone on the internet is wrong!” was created prior to the existence of twitter, tumblr, snapbook, and so on.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I fail to see how his penultimate link points out anything more interesting than there are fools on twitter. Does the existence of that fact change the fact that “free speech” has meaning outside the Constitution, or that a meandering, sarcastic linking of disparate events isn’t terribly persuasive?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        I would like to point out that “Someone on the internet is wrong!” was created prior to the existence of twitter, tumblr, snapbook, and so on.

        And “War is Hell” goes back to the days before nerve gas, nukes, and weaponized anthrax. Things can always get worse (and often do.)Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        It’s not so much that I refuse to acknowledge the existence of Twitter, but I refuse to accept it as anything more than the lowest common denominator of the unfiltered human id. You might as well start writing responses to what people write on bathroom walls.

        More to the point, if this post is a response to Twitter trolls, it’s way more than they deserve. And if it is a response to people making actual arguments in favor of maximum tolerance of intolerable idea, then it is way less than they deserve. That is why I think this is an odd post.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        This is when I remember that I need to get a last name.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:


        Those tweets don’t just talk about free speech, but about the First Amend ent. It’s surprisingly common to hear people squawk about their First Amendment rights when they get criticized for their speech. They deserve to be mocked, and Sam’s mocking them. I don’t see the problem.Report

    • Avatar Saul DeGraw says:

      @j-r @chris

      This is how I understand the post and meme. I explained this on Vikram’s post over the weekend.

      1. Someone says something highly offensive and vulgar. This remark is usually derogatory towards a minority group, women, the poor.

      2. Person 1 is criticized for their comments and actions.

      3. Person 1 expresses shock that they are being criticized for what they said and getting push back and mutter something about “free speech” as if free speech were a shield from all criticism over their actions.

      What these people (and they are usually conservatives, don’t understand) is that the over whelming majority of liberals would have their backs at official censorship being a fine or jail time. This doesn’t mean we think that they should not have their views and attitudes challenged. Free Speech is immunity from being told you that you are wrong.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Sure, but “challenged” can mean a lot of different things. A twitter pile-on can easily step over the line into harassment or just plain unsavoriness, even if any one participant by his/herself would be expressing normal, healthy disagreement.

        Frankly, as a gay man living in a rather conservative area, I do not relish living in Sam Wilkinson’s world, where as much condemnation or irritation as people want to express in whatever means they choose in response to my (liberal) beliefs is apparently part of a healthy society, and whiners who complain about it just should reread the constitution. XKCD proved it!

        Why any sane person would want to do live this way in a pluralistic society is beyond me, but since this seems completely obvious to me and people apparently disagree, there’s no real point in arguing it. Some people’s values and conceptions of a healthy society are just incompatible I guess, so I’ll just bow out.Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:


        Condemnation and irritation are presumably part and parcel of being a gay man in a conservative area. That condemnation and irritation not only occurs, but is sanctioned by the government. Liberals have done no such thing, and yet are inexplicably being held to an even higher standard. Not only do they not advocate that the government harass their opponents (get back to me when Christian marriages are up for a vote) but now we’re seeing that they’re being encouraged not to criticize positions taken by their ideological adversaries. Why on earth do progressives owe opponents any such relief, especially when none is coming in the opposite direction?

        And let’s be clear: Eich, Rice, and Sterling are all fabulously wealthy, more than capable of withstanding storms of their own creation. Can the same be said for that gay teacher I mentioned earlier?

        There is a huge difference in targeting the powerful and targeting, let’s say, a random gay man living in a conservative area.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        Something that surprises me about the Rice/DropBox thing is that people seem to be focusing on the fact that she was part of the “evil/criminal/werewolf” Bush administration and claiming that makes her a bad person in general. A surprisingly large number don’t bother to note that she’s in favor of the NSA electronically spying on Americans and that the employer in question is a cloud storage company where people presumably put their personal data. That seems like really bad signaling, regardless of what else you think of the Bush administration, the wars, or anything else.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @troublesome-frog that’s an interesting point, and one I hadn’t considered.

        In my business (I design hand-knits and write patterns for them), there’s a lot of file sharing as we work toward publication; industry standard is to use dropbox for this, so I set up an account. Without permission, it disconnected the googleplus syncing and began syncing everything I save, and in this really weird way that when I went to a file and opened the most recent version, it would be the drop box version; not necessarily what I’d last saved to my hard drive. Totally screwed my work up on a couple of projects until I figured out what was going wrong.

        I’ve gone back to google, and it wasn’t easy getting dropbox out of the process. So I’m not a fan.

        /sorry for the thread hijack, but I wanted to commend you spotting this.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:


        Next you’ll say that the CEO of a company that makes voting machines shouldn’t give a speech about delivering states to a candidate.Report

    • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

      What do you mean, nobody actually believes this? We just went through a painful, weeks-long back-and-forth about poor Brendan Eich, a man whose only crime was lending material support to a campaign that did everything but explicitly describe all gays as child molesters. That’s all! Nothing major!

      So we had to hear it insisted that Eich should be free to be a bigot, and lo, he IS free to be a bigot. He’s not in jail. He’s not being tried. He hasn’t been rounded up. But what’s he’s not free to do, apparently, is have a job with a private organization while being a bigot. Meanwhile, things like this continue to happen with nary an outcry.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        Exactly. You’re post works very well as a smackdown of a bunch of Twitter trolls complaining about the First Amendment. However, you’re trying to extend that argument and assert that it also serves to refute people making much different arguments in the Eich case.

        The fact that you think those of us who didn’t like what went down with Eich were motivated by the feeling that he was a victim demonstrates that you don’t understand the argument that we were making.Report

      • His point is that the Sterling case is a hugely different case from the Eich/Rice situations. And he’s right, even if one thinks the way Eich and Rice were treated was appropriate.Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

        I understood entirely the argument being made about Eich. I just don’t happen to agree with it, nor do I believe that it was being made in entirely good faith. Sterling’s a more extreme example of the same phenomenon, and one in which I note far fewer people are willing to defend, just as Eich would have likely had fewer defenders if he’d been donating to a group opposed to interracial marriage.

        There are lines that we do and don’t accept. Eich’s behavior was on the other side of that line, because he provided material support to a viciously anti-gay campaign. We can mourn, I suppose, that there are people who objected to that, but nobody forced Eich to donate that money. And yet, the speech that we’re going to bat for is the one of the guy who asked that the government treat gays like second class citizens, not the speech of those who said, “Hey, how about not doing that next time?” That makes no sense to me. Nor should it. If there’s going to be hectoring over an allegedly wavering commitment to free speech, I’d rather it not come from people telling the legitimately aggrieved that their job is to quietly endure their treatment.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        What bad faith you do suspect of Dennis, Tod, Vikram, etc.?Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

        If Eich had donated money in opposition to interracial marriage in 2008, I think the response to his having been criticized is very different. There are lines in other words. I suppose the issue for many is the perception that Eich hadn’t gone beyond those lines when he donated money to campaign that sought to win by claiming that gays posed a threat to children. I would tend to disagree.

        And of course, I believe deeply in the concept of free speech. I just happen to believe that response to the speech of others is part the overall goal.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        I understood entirely the argument…

        No offense Sam, but it is pretty obvious that you do not. I don’t like what happened in the cases of Eich and Rice, but it has next to nothing to do with concern for either Eich or Rice.

        Part of the problem is that there are two separate arguments in play, a reactionary one that is pushing back against the forces of supposed political correctness and a liberal (thought not progressive) argument for maximizing the acceptable parameters of political speech and action. You are, of course, free to disagree with them both, but you ought not conflate them, which is what you are doing.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Well, it’s certainly a shame that Russell, Dennis, et al don’t share your commitment to gay rights.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @sam-wilkinson +1.

        Seems to me there are four levels going on here:

        First, and would be general bigoted speech, Bundy’s a good example. His speech, while odious, was not nearly as bad as his flagrant violations of law;

        Second is the Rice protests; push back against paying (or honoring) someone to express odious opinions;

        Third is Eich’s, attempting to codify bigotry into law;

        Fourth is Sterling’s active racism in his work.

        Numbers 3 and 4 seem much more reprehensible to me; I’d don’t have much problem with 1 and 2; that seems part of the public discourse that free speech should create.Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:


        I’m afraid you’ll have to point me toward the place where I questioned anybody’s commitment to gay rights. I disagree strongly with Dennis/Russell and others about the response that Eich received.Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

        J R,

        You’re welcome to believe whatever you want, but I assure you that I understand arguments being made on Eich’s behalf. I just don’t agree with either of them, mostly because Eich’s right to free speech hasn’t been trampled in the slightest.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        You appear to me to have questioned the good faith of those who disagree with you, with the implication that they don’t share your opinion due to some relative disinterest in protecting gay rights.Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

        Again Will, I’ve made no such claim. I strongly disagree with the notion that responding to another person’s speech is objectionable. But if you need me to spell this out for you: I do not question their commitment to gay rights, nor have I ever, nor would I, barring some newly emerged philosophical change that I had been previously unaware of.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        You stated that you do not believe the argument for Eich was being made in good faith.

        When I asked what you considered to be the bad-faith aspect of the argument, you suggested that the response would be different if it were about something other than gay rights.

        Which I took to mean that you see the difference between you and people who disagree with you as being about fealty to the issue of gay rights.

        This isn’t about you disagreeing with the people you disagree with. It’s not about your framing of the issue. It’s about how you seem to view those who disagree with you. Not just on the issue of gay marriage (who are apparently all to be considered cheating, philandering liars because of what the former senator from New Mexico did) but even those who agree with you on marriage equality and gay rights but disagree with you on the more minor point about what to do with people who disagree with you (who are apparently arguing in partial bad-faith because it’s about gay rights).

        That’s what I am objecting to here. It was the “not acting in entirely good faith” that got my hackles up. That statement goes beyond the random people on the Internet this piece was aimed at. It involves people who have been participating here. I take exception to the notion that they are acting in bad faith. And if you don’t actually intend there to be a subtext about a commitment to gay rights, that people want to give Eich a pass on the basis that it’s just about gay rights, then I don’t understand your earlier answer to my earlier question.Report

      • Avatar j r says:


        If you actually did understand, you would stop saying that this is an argument “on Eich’s behalf.”Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:


        I am responding below.Report

      • So I’m going to try to flesh this out a bit here, hopefully for a post (though given my track record the last year or so, probably not).

        Anyhow, the Rice, Sterling, and Eich situations are each very different. I actually agree that in none of these situations is free speech really implicated even as I agree in principle with Vikram and (I think) jr’s suggestion that a moral commitment to free speech requires a respect for others’ speech and concern about the chilling effects of possible private action on speech, not just a belief that it’s limited to preventing the government from chilling speech.

        Surely, attempts to use the heckler’s veto are censorious and do nothing to express ideas but rather seek only to prevent the expression of ideas. Demands to block speeches by those whose views are deemed offensive in public fora such as universities are just another form of the heckler’s veto.

        I have only slightly less disdain for the use of secondary boycotts to silence speech or persons with views deemed offensive, ie attempts to have persons with views deemed offensive removed from public fora by organizing boycotts not against their programs or speeches but against their sponsors and hosts. As with the heckler’s veto, this is an attempt to prevent others from hearing the speech you deem offensive even as you are free to avoid it yourself.

        But a primary boycott, which is what we’re essentially talking about in the Eich, Sterling, and Rice situations? I don’t see how that’s censorious at all. A primary boycott is little more than a recognition that the marketplace of ideas is just that, and -more importantly – an implicit recognition that our economic activities are or at least can be a form of speech itself. In other words: money is – or at least can be – speech itself.

        If I wish to express the idea that labor unions are important, for instance, there is probably no way of doing so more effectively than buying union products whenever and as much as possible. If I wish to express solidarity with LGBT rights, I might shop only at stores that fly the rainbow flag. If I wish to protest a government regulation, it is surely an act of speech to shop at a store that I believe is unfairly impacted by that regulation. And finally, if I wish to promote libertarian or liberal beliefs but lack the resources or time to make meaningful contributions to the promotion of those beliefs, I might funnel some of my purchases to Koch or Soros-owned entities. Someone with the time and resources that I lack may well even organize an awareness campaign informing people of the wonderful impact of spending my money in this way.

        Direct boycotts and their organizing campaigns are just the flipside to that and thus are also a form of speech in and of themselves. They are little more than an expression of disagreement with would-be recipients’ ideas, a recognition that purchasing from those entities may inadvertently express agreement with those ideas and may well help advance the implementation of those ideas with which you disagree. Surely it is an exercise of free speech rather than an attempt to chill speech for a campaign to attempt to convince people that the purchase of a given product helps to advance a particular idea or outcome with which the consumer may disagree.

        Free speech advocates – myself included – often like to insist that the “solution to bad or offensive speech is more speech.” Direct boycotts are nothing but a form of that “more speech.” Admittedly, secondary boycotts are also a form of this type of speech, but they are inherently and explicitly aimed at shutting down or restricting speech with which you disagree; direct boycotts just seek to call attention to a cause or to encourage people to bring their minds and wallets into alignment.

        That doesn’t mean that I think direct boycotts are inherently just or at least amoral. Only that they are not offensive to notions of free speech.

        I think the greater potential problem with direct boycotts is their tendency to politicize every aspect of life and thereby undermine social and cultural cohesion. This is not a concern at all for me in the Sterling case – he was not seeking to make a political point, nor even to express any broad-based (if horribly twisted) worldview. To the contrary, he was seeking to impose that twisted worldview on his mistress and her acquaintances while also, in effect, confessing to treating his employees with a lack of respect due to their race. Sponsors withdrew and boycotts were almost implemented not because of disagreement with his political views but because of his personal mistreatment of others.

        While I’m not sure whether I would have joined a protest of Condi Rice’s appointment to an executive board, it’s hard for me to be critical of those who did. Rice, like her or not, is an inherently political figure, and the act of appointing her was thus an inherently political act.

        But the Eich situation I find very troubling even if I don’t view it as a free speech problem. Eich was not known for his political views. He made a single contribution, several years ago, to a now-defeated but very broad-based political cause. Regardless, the notion that such a person’s minor political donations are worthy of even being researched is troubling to me. More troubling is that there was no evidence, nor even any reason to believe, that his political views affected his treatment of LGBT people. Nor was there any evidence that his rationale for that opposition came from a particularly bigoted place – there were plenty of reasons to support Prop 8, some far more reasonable than others, particularly since California already had civil unions in place.

        But most problematic of all is the underlying notion that one’s political views are inseparable from their private or business activities. The Eich affair makes me concerned that we are headed towards a world where the already problematic Red State/Blue State divide is overtaken by an even more problematic and far more atomized Red Business/Blue Business divide.

        The Eich affair wasn’t a free speech issue. But it was a disturbing attack on the notion that there is more to life than politics.Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:


        Do you think Eich should have lost his job? Been criticized? Been discussed? Been mentioned?Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:


        I agree with much of what you said, save for one point: I remain baffled to the notion that Eich wasn’t fueled by a bigotry. Had he donated money to a cause opposed to interracial marriage, would anybody seriously believe him if he claimed that he wasn’t motivated by racial animus? There are no substantive reasons to oppose gay marriage that do not at their heart rely upon the notion that gays are less than straights and should be treated as such.

        Furthermore, had Eich not wanted to be involved in politics, I have a very easy and obvious solution: don’t get involved in politics. It is remarkably simple to not give $1000 to a group dedicated wholly to the belief that gays pose a clear and present danger to children. Unless he was forced to write that check, he took a calculated risk, and eventually, he paid a price, one that thousands of Americans routinely pay as a result of decisions they’ve made previously.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        It matters that Eich gave money to a cause that actively participated in hate speech, promoting the notion that gay parents harmed children. There were many commercials paid for by donations like Eich’s that were nasty.

        And the science and philosophy behind those commercials were seriously Repudiated™ by in Michigan as bogus unsound science and lies.


      • Avatar j r says:


        I am going to answer your question with a fanciful analogy.

        Let’s say that Adolf Hitler is walking down the street and is crushed to death by a safe that falls out of a fifth story window. I wouldn’t feel bad for Hitler and I would even cheer his demise. I would also, however, think that it’s not a good idea to have safes falling out of fifth story windows and suggest some safety measures to prevent that from happening, because next time it might not be Adolph Hitler who gets crushed.

        I am quite ambivalent to Eich or Rice (and I actively support what happened to Sterling), however, I support a social norm that posits that people’s political speech and political activities ought not be used against individuals in the workplace (unless, of course, the workplace is an obviously political one). Again, this has nothing to do with concern for Eich or Rice; rather the concern is that sooner or later someone that I actually do have concern for will become the target of similar pressures.

        And now here is a question for you: if Eich had been a pro-gay marriage donor and been removed as CEO of a company by socially conservative partisans, would you be equally supportive of the bigots who went after him?Report

      • Sam, you seem to have horribly missed my point and, in the process, validated it.

        My point is that asserting that the question “what is your position on issue x”- whatever x may be- should be utterly and wholly irrelevant outside the political sphere. Treating it as so important and essential outside of the political realm that the wrong answer can disqualify someone from a job or a circle of friends, etc., is to assert that politics should dominate every aspect of our lives. It is to create a culture in which people must choose between abstaining altogether from actively participating in democracy and having all aspects of their life defined by their chosen political team.

        Your response to these objections is that if people don’t want their lives defined by their politics, they shouldn’t get involved in politics. That of course doesn’t answer my concern – it quite literally is my concern. A culture that adopted the norm that individual participation on the “wrong” side of a political issue warrants termination of employment and removal from acceptable society would be a culture in which all businesses belonged to either Team Red or Team Blue, as did all circles of friends, and anyone dissenting on issues of importance to the team to which the business or circle of friends belonged is expected to just STFU.

        You will, of course, suggest that this won’t happen because the pariah treatment should be reserved for people who advocate for positions that would actively harm people if implemented. This is of little comfort- there are close to zero policy positions that, if implemented, wouldn’t harm anyone or at least wouldn’t be perceived as causing harm to a group of people.

        This is true even of the SSM issue. While you and I would surely agree that SSM in and of itself causes no actual harm to anyone, the fact is that there are an awful lot of people who perceive it as causing them great harm, even if they are horribly wrong in that perception and even if that perception comes from a bigoted place.

        The growing cultural attitude that politics defines us, rather than the other 99% of our lives, means that those people who perceive SSM as causing them harm will be no less likely to dump anyone viewed as providing assistance to SSM from Team Red businesses and friendships as proponents of SSM are happy to boot SSM opponents from Team Bkue businesses and friendships.

        This is a fine recipe for creating bubbles; it’s not a very good recipe for solving problems or maintaining a cohesive society.

        No, I submit that the world is a much better place when the quality of one’s character is a function of how they treat people individually during the 99% of their lives that fall outside the political realm. It is a worse place when the quality of our character is a function of the tiny portion of our time spent involved with the realm of politics.

        In the specific case of SSM, I will also note that SSM has won so rapidly precisely because of how willing SSM supporters (especially gay SSM supporters) were to engage their opponents on a personal level. Twenty years ago, opposition to even civil unions was overwhelming, and support for actual SSM almost nonexistent. 10 years ago, SSM existed in only one state, civil unions in only a handful, and both were still overwhelmingly opposed. Six years ago, support of SSM was still very much a minority position. SSM proponents won the argument so swiftly not by seeking to define their opponents’ character by their opposition to SSM but instead won by bravely coming out of the closet and being visible in the 99% of life that matters most. Had this tactic of treating opponents as pariahs been adopted early on, I assure you that none of this progress would have been made. Tradition has an awful lot of emotional appeal; love of friends and family, thankfully, has an even stronger emotional appeal. But it’s a hard appeal to make when you seek to isolate your would-be friends and family.

        As for whether Eich had a non bigoted reason for supporting Prop 8, I hope by now you know my answer: I don’t much care. I suppose if he wants to run around publicizing his rationale, it might be newsworthy to the limited extent it provided insight on how he personally interacts with gays.

        I will say this, though- people have a strong emotional attachment to tradition. That is not much of an argument for preserving a tradition in a particular form, and we should rightly be skeptical of arguments against change that are grounded primarily in reference to tradition. But that doesn’t mean that those seeking to protect tradition are inherently more bigoted towards those harmed by the tradition than those seeking to alter the tradition. It just means they’re human.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        If I wish to express the idea that labor unions are important, for instance, there is probably no way of doing so more effectively than buying union products whenever and as much as possible. If I wish to express solidarity with LGBT rights, I might shop only at stores that fly the rainbow flag. If I wish to protest a government regulation, it is surely an act of speech to shop at a store that I believe is unfairly impacted by that regulation. And finally, if I wish to promote libertarian or liberal beliefs but lack the resources or time to make meaningful contributions to the promotion of those beliefs, I might funnel some of my purchases to Koch or Soros-owned entities. Someone with the time and resources that I lack may well even organize an awareness campaign informing people of the wonderful impact of spending my money in this way.

        I likewise have no problem with “primary” boycotts (or simply directing of commerce in one direction or another) of this kind as a reaction to speech generally (to some extent it could case-dependent, but I don’t think to very much of one). And I would acknowledge that the decision about where to buy goods clearly scan and does have expressive significance for people.

        But just as a question of being (IMO) faithful to the meaning of words, I don’t know that I can assent to the idea that a boycott of this kind is “speech.” A boycott is about as action-y as you can get from where I sit. (You could say that it is not-action (not-buying from X), but often the point of the action is “I will be getting my shoes not from you but from someone else as long as you keep saying those things,” hence, action.) And to me the speech-action distinction remains an important one to maintain if we are going to give speech the special normative protection that it enjoys in in the liberal system.

        Speech enjoys that protection in the liberal system not because it is expressive, but because it is fundamentally peaceful and because it best promotes the method of resolving disputes that liberal (esp. Enlightenment) society seeks to elevate above others: appeal to reason. Action has much higher potential costs and doesn’t tend to appeal to reason. Boycotts don’t appeal to reasons; they act on interests. I could also say that murder can often have great potential expressive content/value for people sufficiently exercised about what they want to express, but I fully recognize that it’s quite possible that a clear line could be drawn somewhere short of murder but after boycotts to delineate what kind of expressive acts we want to give highest endorsement to.

        Nevertheless, from my perspective, the speech/action distinction, has remained a pretty useful line to maintain, as difficult as it can be, down through the generations. In any case, it’s not clear to me that it’s the act of expression that we seek to protect when we give special protection to speech as compared to other expressive acts. It’s the mode of expression that we seek to elevate – IMO because speech has a higher likelihood to be peaceful and appeal to reason than does most other action.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        …And just to be clear, I’m not saying (I think I said the opposite, but I just want to be very clear), that speech must never be responded to with action. I think it can be and often is very appropriate to do so. (I also think some degree of proportionality should be adhered to, though I think that is hardly something that people won’t generally agree with). I’m just saying that not every action that is expressive is speech, and thus IMO shouldn’t necessarily receive the special protection we give specifically to speech. I would note that printing pamphlets or flyers or giving a speech promoting a boycott is speech, while the boycott itself is not, just as printing a pamphlet urging a lynching is speech (perhaps speech that enjoys far less protection than much other speech – obviously not all speech is equally peaceful, and we do limit the extent to which we protect speech for a variety of reasons), while a lynching is not speech, even though it might well be expressive for someone.

        It’s also worth noting that probably a minority of boycotts (divestments, etc.) are reactions to speech. More often, in my experience, they seem to be reactions to actions (of Israel in the occupied territories, of companies for providing inhumane working conditions, etc.). Obviously, responding to action with (peaceful) action is all the more appropriate even than responding to speech with action. (This is really neither here nor there wrt the above discussion, but worth remembering IMO.)Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

        J R,

        Unlike Hitler (a weird thing to write), Eich is not simply a bystander who happened to be walking by. He donated money to a viciously anti-gay campaign specifically designed to make the lives of gay citizens worse, both via outrageous implication and secondary-citizenship status. Hitler was just walking by. Eich stood there saying, “I want the government to make air conditioners fall on gay people and I’m willing to pay money to see that it happens.” Those are two very different scenarios.

        As for Eich having been somebody else who had done something else – I would obviously object based upon my personal preferences, but the argument that I would make wouldn’t involve a free speech claim. (And, again, people are fired all of the time for being gay. Eich wasn’t even fired. He resigned. I don’t know why we keep leaving on the cutting room floor.) Speaking freely entails risk, as anybody who has ever spoken and then been punished for it can attest. That’s always been my understanding of the principle. I could have it wrong, I suppose, but I’ve never understood the idea that free speech stops after the initial comment has been made, that criticizing another person’s comments is tantamount to a violation of any kind at all.

        For those that don’t like paying that price, don’t make the comment. I can only assume that the willingness to make the comment indicates a belief that the comment is more important than any potential consequences, and that Eich truly believed that gays were such a threat that it simply didn’t matter what came next for him. If he did his calculus wrong, what a bummer for him, I guess.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:


        Treating it as so important and essential outside of the political realm that the wrong answer can disqualify someone from a job or a circle of friends, etc., is to assert that politics should dominate every aspect of our lives.

        I think that in general, that’s true, but I also don’t think that we should be able to launder our ill intent toward others through the political system and wash our hands of it. I may be to cowardly or too polite to punch you in the face over coffee, but if I consistently support the Punch Mark Thompson Repeatedly in the Face Act of 2014 (coming soon to a state near you), I don’t think that it’s fair for me to get high and mighty when you take it personally and respond to me outside the ballot box.

        In some cases, “It’s just politics” is no more comforting than, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game,” or “It’s just business,” before the mafia hit man shoots you. Does his place in a larger and more impersonal framework really absolve him of his personal contribution to it? Should you let it slide because it’s not just him?

        Sure, we shouldn’t go straight to the people on every issue, but I can understand how Prop 8 and the particularly ugly campaign that surrounded it could reasonably cross the line into the personal for a lot of people.Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

        @mark-thompson I will respond at the bottom of the thread.Report

      • @michael-drew All fair points. I probably disagree on your speech/expression distinction a bit, but mostly as a matter of semantics. I think the more relevant point is that the calls for boycotts (or their opposite, “Buy _____” campaigns) are pure speech – they merely point out the expressive elements of economic activity and argue that purchasing from a given entity has certain effects that the intended audience may find undesirable.

        While there’s perhaps room for debate on the legal interest in actually following through with a boycott or a “Buy _____” campaign, I think even most people who think boycotts can undermine free speech would agree that an individual simply making the choice on their own to refrain from purchasing a given company’s products poses little threat to free speech. What they are concerned about from a speech standpoint instead is the organization of boycotts. But since the extent of that organization is pointing out the connection between money and expression, and (outside of the labor context) almost never involves any coercion to join the boycott (or the “Buy _____” campaign), I think it’s fair to say that simply organizing a boycott is pure speech by any definition.Report

  4. Avatar zic says:

    Is it possible that this rapid action was due to what Commissioner Adams heard from Clipper’s staff, too; potential of racial harassment on the job? Stuff like this is pretty easy to find, even from current team members:

    Former Clippers point guard Baron Davis, who had well-chronicled battles with Sterling during his time there, wrote on his Twitter account, also presumably about Sterling, “That’s the way it is … He is honest about what he believes in..Been going on for a long time, Hats off 2 the Team.. 4 playin above it all.”


  5. Avatar Kolohe says:

    “And now, Donald Sterling, a heroic American whose only transgression…”

    The thing is, per the commish, that is indeed the only transgression for which he is being fined and banned for life. Not the racist slum lord thing, nor the Eligin Baylor case, nor any other aspect of rumor or reputation.

    The funny thing is (as in not funny), if he would have merely beat up his girlfriend rather than verbally berating her, this incident would have hardly made the news.Report

  6. Avatar Kazzy says:

    FWIW, they had “The Five” on in the dentist’s office and the extent of their coverage of the announcement was bemoaning the NAACP because they didn’t apologize to black conservatives. Seriously.

    So while there might not be major media members going quite as far as Sam indicates here, there is certainly no shortage who are responding idiotically.Report

  7. Avatar Simonzee1 says:

    Private comments publicised to destroy him. How many times have we all made statements in private if recorded and publicised would ruin us? I’d say plenty if times. The guy has insecurity issues but a ban for life could be interpreted as reverse racism or anti-semitism as he is a Jew. I thought the Pharisees that were about to cast the first stone were bad but that is nothing compared to the left-wing media. Baldwin also suffered their wrath as we know. What about Kerry’s apartheid comments on Israel? Not a word.

    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

    C.S. Lewis”Report

    • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

      Wait, free speech for Sterling but no free speech for Kerry? THIS IS SO COMPLICATED!Report

    • Avatar Mo says:

      Yeah, Kerry is in the same league as noted anti-Semites like Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmer.Report

    • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

      When we were discussing the Eich affair, a lot of questions were raised about an executive’s ability to maintain the support of his employees if they knew about his private feelings for them. The example I (and others) brought up was a known white supremacist running a company with a lot of nonwhite employees. This seems like exactly that case jumping right out of thought experiment land. The NBA, whose key employees have a substantial black majority simply can’t have one of its executives known to hold views like that.

      Regardless of whether those views should have been kept hidden, they’re out now and the NBA leadership would be in an untenable position if they just ignored it. Morality and fairness don’t even have to enter into it.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      How many times have we all made statements in private if recorded and publicised would ruin us?

      I’m guessing that you’re not speaking hypothetically.Report

  8. Avatar Mo says:

    While I do not mourn the loss of Donald Sterling and my thoughts on the NBA action are somewhere between, “What took them so long” and “So being a racist slumlord that loses multiple housing discrimination cases is kosher, but racist rant isn’t,” I will note that even Marge Schott got suspended multiple times for screw-ups before getting the boot. It’s a stain on Stern that this is the first time Sterling got so much as a slap on the wrist.Report

  9. Avatar Ronnie Applewhite says:

    Oh my God. This was so excellently written that I almost became one of those idiots who post an angry comment on a satirical piece as if it were real. Nice job. I actually had the snarky comment written and decided to re-read the blog post before I posted it. You almost got me!!

    And I agree with your previous comment that this isn’t something that “almost nobody believes.” Whenever a business owner or public figure suffers some kind of backlash about an anti-gay comment, the internet explodes with people (e.g. Sarah Palin, Bill O’Reilly, etc) who try to portray it as a First Amendment issue. “What? All I said was that I would never do business with gay people, and now my business is being boycotted. Those people are violating my free speech and my freedom of religion.” It is bad enough when “regular” folk make this mistake. When it is parroted by elected officials and public figures that should know better, it is even worse. And most of the time, I am convinced that people like Sarah Palin and Bill O’Reilly know damn good and well that it’s not a First Amendment issue, but they talk about it anyway so that they can rile up the unwashed masses.Report

  10. Avatar greginak says:

    Of course Sterling should have been booted from the NBA for losing lawsuits demonstrating that his business actively discriminated. That would seem to be a tangible breech of ethics. This is bad PR which sadly hits pocket books worse.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      Do you seriously think that’s why he was booted?

      Or do you think it was, with the tape, backing up things he’d heard from people who worked for the Clippers? My guess is that the talks with players, former players, and staff sealed his fate here.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Edit: he = NBA Commissioner Allen.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        I don’t think the NBA cares if his players and staff hate him. I certainly don’t think they care if his businesses actually discriminated. They care about an embarrassing personal tape. That makes what his players think and feel more pertinent but its basically PR and that he has stuck his finger to much in the eye of fans. There have apparently been plenty of people who heard racist stuff from him and he has a rep in the NBA as a racist jerk. Nobody cared it seems.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        At some point, it potentially rises to the level of on-the-job harassment and discrimination. I don’t think people cared until he pushed the bad PR buttons; but when they started investigating, to have him thrown out so fast suggests to me that there was more to it. Not just bad PR, but potential law suits and civil rights violations.Report

      • Avatar JTR says:

        I certainly agree that the NBA doesn’t care a whit what the players think.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        “to have him thrown out so fast suggests to me that there was more to it.”

        But that is not what the commissioner said, quite directly, at the press conference today. He said the league’s action were entirely about that recorded conversation and the fact that Sterling admitted it was actually himself on that recording.

        Now clearly, the fact that all the business partners of the Clippers had bailed over the weekend gave the commissioner the impetus and the latitude to act quickly and act strongly (independent of the legalistic terms of his authority). Silver has some advantage as being the new sheriff in town, so he can lay off what was or was not about Sterling in the past on the feet of his predecessor(s), and make new precedents without any baggage he himself (Silver as commissioner) may have brought to this affair had he been longer serving. I also bet that the many of the other owners are finally glad to be rid of a colleague that does almost everything he can to deliberately lose. (say what you will about Dan Snyder, the man actually wants to win football games)

        It’s actually kind of weird that Silver, as a brand new commissioner, is saying he is basing his decision solely on the conversation, and not with any broader pattern of conduct. He has thus set the marker for the maximum punishment based on fairly narrow scope of infraction. It may bite him in the rear if any future league actor does something that demands or even suggests the ‘death penalty’, and Silver declines to judge accordingly.Report

      • Avatar zic says:


        Your last graf is exactly why I suspect there’s more to this quick action (plus the players for all teams were considering boycotting tonight’s games. . .)

        But think about it: if you had past complaints on file, and a list of people asking for appointments to tell their stories about working for the guy, would you advertise it or would you say, no, this was enough?Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        I’m not saying that it wasn’t the right decision. And I’m not saying that it wasn’t the right decision particularly given the broader context.

        I’m just saying that the commissioner was quite explicit today in declaring that his decision was *not* based on any broader context.

        And I can’t think of any good reason why his decision *shouldn’t* be based on the broader context, nor can I think of any good reason why he would lie about the basis for his decision – especially as the decision is to hand down the maximum punishment he is allowed to order.

        That is somewhat troubling to me on a rule of law principle.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        @kolohe you may be correct.

        From the business writing I did, I don’t agree. Crisis management has a set of rules; and first is deal with the immediate crisis by accepting responsibility for the known harm and showing a good-faith effort to remedy it; the tylenol scare is the textbook example. But you don’t admit to more then what’s known, either; you just create new problems and encourage deeper investigation, so continue the PR nightmare. Given the rapid and extreme measures, every reporting instinct I have suggests that there’s a history that’s well documented here. We’ll see, if Sterling sues. The move would provoke him to sue, so I’d guess that there’s reason to believe there are things that rise to the level of civil-rights violations.

        But as I said, this is my opinion based on what I’ve seen businesses go through and advice pieces I’ve written in the past, and it’s quite possible I’m wrong. I’ll be surprised if I am, though.Report

  11. Avatar Tod Kelly says:


    It’s interesting to note that Sam’s sarcastic bit seems to be attracting — for the very first time, despite thee posts on Sterling and one on Bundy — people that agree with his post.Report

  12. Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

    Congrats on slaying a strawman.Report

  13. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    I am unaware of any part of free speech that states that free speech must be consequence free. The First Amendment states that Congress shall pass no law limiting free speech Sterling is being punished by the NBA, a private organization, for his views. The American government is not inflicting damage on him. Sterling is free to say any racist comments he wants to. That doesn’t mean society or the NBA has to politely nod and not do anything about it.Report

    • Avatar Lyle says:

      I agree 100% the federal constitution says Congress shall make no law, state constitutions essentially say the state government shall make no law. Sterling is not be charged with a federal or state crime, so there is no free speech violation.
      It would be impossible to pass a law saying that there are no private consequences for speech, in fact the law explicitly allows for damages for libel and slander, so it is not the case. (Imagine how you would enforce such a law). The only real issue was was the taping of the conversation that lead to the issue a violation of privacy. As we have seen otherwise, it is now better to not say it than to say it if the other party could get angry with you and make it public. In essence from being in the past “don’t say anything in an email you would not want to see on the front page of the New York Times, it has become perhaps, don’t say anything, unless you have anti bugging equipement you would not mind appearing…
      In both cases an top supervisor (direct or indirect) disrespected subordinates, and the subordinates proved more important than the supervisor.Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      If there is no moral requirement that speech not be consequence free, what do you think justifies the first amendment. Clearly, you are not a libertarian who thinks that the state cannot be trusted or who only cares about government interference and not other sorts of coercion. Neither do you seem to be the kind of liberal who thinks that states ought to be value neutral. Otherwise, why not just chalk up state interference in speech as just more consequences? Suppose the state criminalised holocaust denial, why couldn’t we just say “Sure you can deny the holocaust, you just have to be prepared to pay a hefty fine fee if you do.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Can’t you just be pragmatic about it: the protections are in place to allow people to, for example, publicly criticize gummint?Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        Lots of places in Europe seem to be able to allow criticism of government without also giving people American levels of speech protection. In fact, given issues regarding chilling effect vis a vis libel, I suspect that Lee along with most Americans do think that freedom of speech involves protections against more than the criminalisation by the state.

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        Sam doesn’t have to be a libertarian who thinks the state cannot be trusted (though I don’t think we know the extent to which Sam might think the state cannot be trusted; it seems like it might be quite high for a lot of purposes to me) to endorse the American Framers’ sense that while consequences in private interaction for speech are perfectly acceptable, the government should not engage in meting out consequences for expressing particular opinions in speech or some other forms. There’s no binary pro-government/anti-government test for whether a person can endorse a particular constitutional limit on government power. People can trust the government for certain purposes and given them power to act on them, while endorsing limits in other areas. There are many possible justifications for why government shouldn’t be able to take actions of a certain character under nearly any circumstances that it might in many circumstances be appropriate for citizens to take amongst each other.Report

  14. Avatar Simonzee1 says:

    Meanwhile corrupt left wing darlings like Hillary Clinton woth Benghazi on her conscience fly around the world and milk the taxpayer for all their worth while engaging in corrupt behaviour.

    In N.S.W in the most populace state a very honest and competent Premier resigned because he forgot to declare a $3000 dollar gift. I guess they do everything bigger in America including corrupt behaviour out in the open and get away with it. This while Stirling gets crucified for private comments as a Republican Jew.

    You won’t hear about this dodgy dealings of Hillary Clinton in the prominent left wing media.

  15. Avatar Simonzee1 says:

    Maybe this just a distraction from the fact that the Jewish Democrats and other liberals in Hollywood are about to take our internet.

    Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg are all Jewish supporters of Obama who as C.S Lewis referred to as the claasic do-gooders like we have come to expect from most left-wing liberals who want to rid the world of guns…upsized sodas and oil including the Keystone pipeline and a free internet.

    We also know that a very Jewish and post hippy Hollywood descriminated against Conservative Script writers for over 30 years.

    What marks out the tyranny of the way these people operate is that which marks the left of politics and liberal donors.

    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

    C.S. Lewis”

    But essentialy these attacks on the freedom of the internet are about money and the operations of lobbyists, where….essentially Hollywood is behind the reforms to give away the last controls of the internet including the hire of the lobbyist Robert Holleyman.

    After a public outcry this decision to give away the last controls of the internet looks to be on hold but now the FCC is stepping in and destroying a free internet after failing to take control of newsrooms. They now are talking about a censorship fast lane.

    This after the FCC  failed to put monitors and censors in every news room.

    Americans need to realise how militant the left is and how influential these Liberal donors are. If they supported the giving away of the internet so that they could attack piracy behind the scenes then they likewise support attacks on a free internet and create the tools to enliven political censorship with the Obama administration working behind the scenes to attack opponents. These FCC reforms are part of this…moving into this direction.

    We see how the Obama administration has used the federal beauracracy to attack opponents. Who is to say that this new FCC proposal for a fast lane will not use information supply with deals behind the scenes to do the same and attack political opponents. Obama is always meeting behind closed doors with the media or Silicon Valley giants. It will happen and it is a disgrace as Google has already proved itself to be left in politics. They are all do-gooder tyrants where we would be better off under robber barons.

    What is Google and Facebook getting out of this new FCC proposal?

    What we know for sure is that the left wing silicon valley giants cannot be trusted along with the FCC. They will use the do-gooder justifications to fight against piracy to take away a free internet and you can take that to the bank. Read the quote from C.S Lewis again.

    If Hollywood can have this much clout….discriminate against conservative scriptwriters for so long and work together with Obama to take away a free internet then all should be concerned. This is an activity of so called do-gooders that believe they have the authority to strip all of us of our internet freedoms. Conservative Christians need to stand up to these secular liberals and secular Jewish do-gooders that have too much political clout in America.Report

  16. Avatar kingkong says:

    umm I think you need to re read your US constitution quote. LAST i checked Congress and NBA are two different entities. 1st amendment applies to the government not the private institutions. The government cannot make a law against freedom of speech. The NBA on the other hand doesn’t give you that freedom. Before you write an article about the US constitution go take high school civics.Report

  17. Avatar free speech bigger than 1st am. says:

    The problem with your brand of repression is that it excuses all forms of censorship so long as it doesn’t come from the government. So the first amendment doesn’t apply to private behavior. So what? Does that fact an action is not unconstitutional make it right? The first amendment is a tool for protecting free speech–it is not free speech itself. Free speech is being able to express even highly controversial ideas without being so severely punished that others feel intimidated against expressing similar ideas in the future. Society benefits when people are exposed to the widest possible range of ideas for many reasons. For one, it prevents any small cabal of self-interested elites from controlling the public conversation for their own benefit. For another, it allows new ideas that run contrary to received wisdom to receive a public hearing and, possibly, change minds. For yet another it creates a peaceful outlet for social tensions. If people can freely and openly debate ideas and try to change eachother’s mind it relieves the pressure to advance ones cause by violence. The thing is, most people seem to get that free speech is important. It’s just they don’t want people they really dislike to have it. The conversation is always, “I believe in free speech, but such-and-such speech is so offensive that it doesn’t count.” The problem with that is that it is precisely the most offensive speech that we most need to protect if we value free speech at all. Any coward can parrot the prevailing opinions of his or her age without consequence. It takes no courage, for instance, to self-righteously mock a racist and sarcastically suggest that his supporters are unreasonable. But if we want to live in a society where people are exposed to a variety of competing worldviews even the most offensive worldviews must be allowed. Why? Because if you say we can exclude the worst, who gets to decide what’s the worst? Who gets to determine what ideas are so unacceptable that they will meet with punitive suppression? The answer of course, is the powerful, whether it’s the powerful in government, media, or in business. Do we really want to live in a society where the powerful get to decide what it’s acceptable for you to believe and express? I’d rather stomach a few racists than live in a society where debate is limited to thoughts that the powerful approves of.Report

    • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

      I’d rather stomach a few racists than live in a society where debate is limited to thoughts that the powerful approves of.

      By “I” in this case, do you really mean you, specifically, would be OK with owning a business where one of your high level public-facing executives says horribly embarrassing racist things? Or do you mean that other people should have to deal with that problem in their businesses in order to preserve your ideal of free thought?Report

    • Here’s a question – isn’t the freedom of association also bigger than the first amendment? And wasn’t Sterling directly attempting to interfere with his mistress’ freedom of association rather than simply expressing disapproval of it?

      The fact is that Sterling is not being sanctioned simply for expressing unpopular and offensive ideas. He’s being sanctioned for imposing those unpopular and offensive ideas on others. He’s being sanctioned for using those unpopular and offensive ideas as a basis for being one of the worst owners in sports history. He’s being sanctioned for treating his employees and his mistress as if he were the owner of a Southern plantation; we’ve always known he was one of the worst owners in sports history, but the tapes show that his crappiness as an owner was deeply connected to his astoundingly racist worldview, and indeed was nothing less than the imposition of that worldview on his employees.

      Sterling wasn’t expressing an opinion on those recordings – he was issuing orders. If I order someone to commit a murder or a theft and reasonably expect that they’ll obey my order, I don’t get to evade legal or moral responsibility, nor social sanction, for the effects on the grounds that the orders were speech.Report

  18. Avatar Lab Rat says:

    I have no sympathy for Sterling, Rice, or Eich. As someone said earlier in the comments, they’re rich, powerful people who can weather the storm their actions caused with no effect on their quality of life. I do worry about the precedent, though.

    Plenty of people supported Prop 8. A significant minority of people are racist scum. I’d wager most people hold at least one opinion a plurality of this country finds repugnant? How do we decide who loses their livelihood. Only the rich ones?

    Right now, the power of public opinion is leveraged against powerful bigots of different stripes, but this weapon isn’t going anywhere and it is a dangerous one. It can be turned on normal people. We’d do well remember, it has been used historically to support the status quo at the expanse of vulnerable minorities.Report

  19. Avatar Eric says:

    Your understanding is all wrong. Congress, nor the government had ANYTHING to do with Sterling. Test this notion of free speech yourself. Say some inflammatory things to your boss today and try hiding behind the First Amendment.

    Just sayin’.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      Ladies and gentlemen, I will prove to you that, sadly, there are people who have been born without the Irony Gene. Exhibit A: @eric ‘s post above. Notice how he takes the OP at literal face value. Notice how he fails to see that through the use of devices such as sarcasm and dissonance between the literal words and his intent, the author actually agrees with @eric . Please bear this in mind as we circulate the donation box for the Jonathan Swift School. Your support is desperately needed.Report

  20. Avatar Simonzee1 says:

    While we debate race:
    These are the people/animals that liberals like McCain and Obama are supporting…the same type of terrorist groups that killed your ambassador and three other Americans as well as 8 Christians on a beach in Benghazi for enjoying sun and sand… and an old Catholic Priest in Syria after pumping 500 million dollars of illegal weapons into Libya alongside NATO and Sunni autocracies to depose Gadaffi. These weapons are being used to murder civilians right now in Syria and Iraq..

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:


      So, anyway…

      I get that you’re not fond of Jews or Muslims, and hey, if that’s working for you then good for you. If the day ever comes where we have a symposium on “Jews & Muslims: Salt of the Earth or Histories Greatest Monsters?” feel free to light us up with this stuff.

      Until then, however, please don’t use post on the NBA as an excuse to rant about it here. Report

  21. Avatar Chris says:

    On the one hand, people losing their livelihoods because of private speech or their political positions is something I’m uncomfortable with. On the other, I think one of the best tools we have for changing society is social sanction, and there are certain things that we should make clear are unacceptable in our society, not the least of which is racism. For people like Eich and Sterling, who are both in charge of people they’ve admitted, through speech or action, that they see as lesser, and who are the faces of their companies, I’m not sure it’s possible to keep them around after it’s become public knowledge that they are bigots. I don’t see this as a free speech issue so much as a business decision.

    With people with less power and less visibility than these two, though, it becomes tricky. Should everyone who has admitted voting for Prop 8 lose their jobs? What about the guy who drives a septic truck and gave $30 to the campaign because it’s what he could afford? Does he need to lose his job?Report

    • Avatar zic says:


      But if he rants about teh gays to to his customers I wouldn’t have much issue if his employer fired him after 1. receiving a complaint from customers, 2. speaking to him about proper customer relations on the job, and 3. a couple of repeat offenses.Report

    • Avatar Patrick says:

      On the other, I think one of the best tools we have for changing society is social sanction

      Jaybird? Is that you?

      What about the guy who drives a septic truck and gave $30 to the campaign because it’s what he could afford? Does he need to lose his job?

      I’m of two schools of thought on this one.

      The first is, well, uh, yeah. Again, freedom of association and all. If his boss wants to fire him for donating to Prop 8, I think he’s a terrible boss and the company probably won’t survive in the marketplace with bosses like that boss in charge, so I don’t see that we need to worry overmuch about whether or not they hypothetical boss or septic tank driver exist.

      The second is, well, uh, no, of course not… but I don’t see any way to prevent such an occurrence systematically without all sorts of undesirably consequences.

      Ultimately I come down on: people who have the moral conviction to stand up for their principles should stand on their principles regardless of the consequences. That’s what shows conviction, after all. Without conviction, you’re not talking about moral principles, you’re talking about cosmetic preferences. Probably if you’re voting for something that a lot of people find offensive because of your cosmetic preferences rather than your actual moral convictions… you’re probably something of an ass.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I’m not suggesting we should pass a law to prevent it. I’m just not sure its a trend we want to be part of. The question is where to draw the line: when is it a good decision vs a potentially socially damaging one.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Extroverts get to apply more social sanction than introverts. This is why we need laws.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        @chris This is the line of thinking that I have been pursuing as the subject has popped up here and there. Drawing a whole lot of scenarios and asking myself how I feel about that. I was going to write a post on the subject, but I think the tendency to drift towards black and white solutions is insurmountable at this point.

        Yet I find “I have every moral right to fire somebody who think ecigarettes should be heavily regulated and anybody who objects to that on “speech” grounds doesn’t understand the government” to be unsatisfying. And I find “When he went around using the n-word and the six-letter f-word around the office, he was just engaging in speech and while it may be perfectly legal to fire them it’s the wrong think to do” to also being unsatisfying.

        Everything else is in between, and I don’t see a terribly bright dividing line.

        Also, get a last name, man! The RSS feed has been confusing!Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Ya’ll can pick a last name for me. Ass long as it’s not “Jackass.”Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:


        It’s Greek for “agitator”. “Agitator” is, of course, another word for “mixer”.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        So is at-will employment ok with you? Do you think an employer should be able to fire someone for any reason? And if this is the reason, do you think it should bar the employee from collecting unemployment?

        I think those are the answers, @chris

        But Rice, Eich, and Sterling each had either fiduciary or sworn-oath responsibility, and that entails a different set of rights to most employment. Public outrage can interferes with your ability to uphold those responsibilities. I think the best description for it is moral turpitude via violation of others civil rights (and for comparison, isn’t all that much different from a sex scandal).Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        “Anamiktiras” is awesome.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        Everything else is in between, and I don’t see a terribly bright dividing line.

        Me either.

        Ethan and Sam have pointed out that social opprobrium is more or less a bottom-up tool, and bottom-up tools are generally advocated by the Right, and they’re grumpy about the fact that when the Left does this, they get pushback, including from some folk in the center.

        I think the issue is largely muddled on the last few threads because people are trying to come up with a generalized idea of when it’s okay to use this particular tool for societal change.

        You’re not going to be able to do that. As a tool for societal change, you’re going to approve of it when it aligns with your normative principles about what constitutes acceptable societal change, and you’re going to disapprove of it when it doesn’t align with your normative principles of what constitutes acceptable social change.

        Ergo, critiquing and focusing so highly on the tactic is a digression.

        You either agree with the idea that (Eich, Sterling) is sufficiently terrible to warrant (action) to bring about (purpose), or you don’t.

        You can discuss the valuation of (Eich, Sterling), or you can discuss the empirical consequences of the tactic, but if you’re not keeping the purpose coupled into the discussion, you just wind up with…

        … oh, it’s okay when liberals do it, then?
        … oh, it’s okay when conservatives do it, then?

        When the doing of the it isn’t the point at all, nor is who is doing the it.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        No, I generally think employment should be much more secure. In particular, I think that employment at the bottom should be no less secure than employment at the top (and that the only way to achieve anything like that is through organization). If we’re going to have a system where employment is, for the vast majority of people, a condition of surivival, essentially, then the fact that it is as insecure as it is for most people is a moral failing of our system.

        I think Eich and Sterling had to go, once their views became public (and I’m all for making bigotry public), because of their positions, as I said in the first comment. I’m not sure this is Sam’s position, though. So I was mostly just asking.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        No, I generally think employment should be much more secure. In particular, I think that employment at the bottom should be no less secure than employment at the top (and that the only way to achieve anything like that is through organization). If we’re going to have a system where employment is, for the vast majority of people, a condition of surivival, essentially, then the fact that it is as insecure as it is for most people is a moral failing of our system.

        I highly agree with the last sentence.

        I think the first one is very, very problematic, though. Not sure how to square that.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        I’d love to see a graph comparing polling of outrage over Eich/Sterling/Rice not getting the job to support for right-to-work laws by state. Because I’d guess the places where there’s the most outrage over the top-of-the-pyramid folks losing out are also the place where there’s the most support for at-will firing.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman says:

        “but I think the tendency to drift towards black and white solutions is insurmountable at this point…”

        That’s because black-and-white solutions don’t require judgement calls, and therefore cannot be wrong. Or, at least, if they’re decided later to be wrong, then the person who implemented the solution can point to the black-and-white guidelines and say “I didn’t have a choice, I was just following orders”.

        Which is relevant when we’re considering, say, whether or not the police should stop and frisk people wandering around bad neighborhoods after dark. If we set up objective guidelines for who gets stopped and frisked, then there’s no way for race to enter into it; you fit the profile and you get stopped. But if we just leave it up to the police to decide who looks shifty and who looks all right, then obviously they’ll only harass black men because cops are all racists.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        What about the guy who drives a septic truck and gave $30 to the campaign because it’s what he could afford? Does he need to lose his job?

        I’m of two schools of thought on this one.

        The first is, well, uh, yeah. Again, freedom of association and all. If his boss wants to fire him for donating to Prop 8, I think he’s a terrible boss and the company probably won’t survive in the marketplace with bosses like that boss in charge, so I don’t see that we need to worry overmuch about whether or not they hypothetical boss or septic tank driver exist.


        I do recognize two ways of looking at the question in the comment this is extracted from, but I don’t see where the first one you mention is accurately summarized as “well, uh, yeah (the guy who drives a septic truck and gave $30 to the campaign because it’s what he could afford needs to lose his job).”

        You say that if a boss fired a septic truck driver for giving to Prop 8, he’d be “a terrible boss and the company probably won’t survive in the marketplace.” I think that’s a “No,” (though it raises an interesting question: are we defining when someone should get fired for holding impolitic views simply by an appeal to what’s best for the bottom line?), not any kind of, “Yes.”

        I don’t think @chris was asking whether we should prevent some employer for firing someone for what he described. He was asking whether, if we actually endorse the outcome that Eich ended up without a position he had previously held or would have held, do we likewise endorse the same result for a person in a position of much less power and influence in a (much different kind of) company as a result of essentially the same act? If our answer is that a boss who did that would be a terrible boss, then I think our answer to the question Chris meant to ask was no.

        I think (guessing here) that Chris understands that the power to make that choice is going to reside with most every boss under the system we have (at-will employment). I don’t think that’s what he was asking about. He’s asking, if we endorse the outcome for Eich, do we recommend the action he describes. I don’t think your answer to that rally is, “well, uh, yeah.” I think it’s, “No, and there are good reasons for the difference in those answers due to the context.” (I agree.)Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        I think @ChrisMixer has a better ring to it myself.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Michael’s right. My point of raising the septic truck drive hypothetical was that, if Sam’s position is simply that people who participate in political activities that I find unacceptable should be fired, then that guy should be fired too. If it’s that people in positions of power or people in highly visible positions who participate in political activities that I find unacceptable should be fired, that’s a different point.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Oh, and my Twitter name has been @mixing_chris off and on for a couple years.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:


        Well, there you go.Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

        @chris I don’t think that people who participate in political activities that I find unacceptable should be fired. (And, it should be noted, Eich wasn’t fired. He resigned.) But I don’t think they’re necessarily beyond criticism. However, I think stature matters here, surely. A CEO/BoardMember/Owner is a public face of a company. Septic Truck Driver surely isn’t. So while STD is open for criticism, I wonder who it is that will do the criticizing and how far that will go given the STD’s stature. (I didn’t think of those initials prior to seeing them written down.) But even then, I’m not advocating firing anybody. I’m advocating that they’re open to criticism, and that criticism is not a violation of a person’s free speech. I’m also not certain that being fired is a violation of a person’s free speech.

        However, if we want to go the extra step necessary to protect speech – to insist that no matter what a person says, it isn’t a fireable offense – I’d like to start with the people most likely to get fired: gays. Because they’re the ones without workplace protections. Will the people desperately protecting Eich’s bigotry go along with that? Of course not. Because their preferred protections are only for those with traditional views, not for everybody.Report

  22. Avatar Chris says:

    Re: Anamiktiras, I’d have to make sure the forms autofill, ’cause there’s a damn good chanced I’d misspell it.Report

  23. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    So there are important differences between government and private action? I wonder if this applies in other areas, too.Report

  24. Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:


    I continue to believe if we were talking about a different issue – if Eich had publicly opposed interracial marriage, for example – that the response to his behavior would have been very different. Had Eich written a $1000 check to the “Whites Of Round Table” or whatever, I doubt there would have been a similar uproar. It might be more accurate to say that Eich’s position on gay marriage has not yet risen to one of opposition to interracial marriage (although, obviously, it should, as there is no fundamental difference between the two).

    As for the utter nonsense of your comment about “cheating, philandering liars” – presumably that’s harkening back to the tu quoque arguments I’ve made repeatedly, and specifically, the one about Pete Domenici? As I’ve emphasized again (and again and again), my point in insisting upon those arguments being reasonable within certain contexts is because they are reasonable within certain contexts. For instance, if I’m arguing with Pete Domenici. Once we discover that he is a man who cheated on his wife – and who had a secret child whom he refused to acknowledge for decades – it seems fair to me to point these facts out when he’s spouting off about the sacred institution of marriage. Would it be appropriate to cite Pete Domenici when arguing with a person opposed to gay marriage who is neither Pete Domenici nor saddled with similar baggage? No. But I continue to feel it unnecessary to waste my time arguing with people on the merits of the point when they themselves don’t believe in the point that they’re insisting upon. In other words, I don’t think all opponents of gay marriage are “cheating, philandering liars.” I think Pete Domenici is and I think it undermines his claims about his belief in the sanctity of marriage.

    To not mention Domenici’s own entirely malleable understanding of marriage when it concerns his own benefits him and nobody else. He doesn’t have to account for his own behavior, and everybody else loses the ability to point out that the man is an outrageous hypocrite. I don’t understand why anybody would competitively kneecap themselves like that. Just as I don’t understand championing the free speech rights of unrepentant bigots like Eich and then badgering his opponents into silence because their objections are tantamount to violating Eich’s rights.

    Back to the original point: perhaps “bad faith” is a harsh way of putting it, but I very much struggle to believe that people would feel similarly about Eich’s right to free speech without consequence if we’d been talking about an issue that I might describe as being more settled.Report

  25. Avatar Eric Saferstein says:

    I’ve been personally impacted by societal repression of free speech. I have serious concerns about obsolete emergency evacuation protocol for large venues (stadiums, amphitheaters, motor speedways, etc.). When I try to address the matter with incident commanders, they’re often unduly suspicious as to my motivation. Many duck my calls regarding an urgent issue of public safety.

    If you wish to learn about this asymmetric national security issue:

    (Artificially Generated Stampede Awareness Foundation)Report

    • Avatar Patrick says:

      This isn’t a U.S.-only problem.

      I designed my neighborhood evac plan and getting information about the electrical substation in the park was… problematic. I sympathize.

      Not sure that this qualifies so much as a free speech issue as it does a freedom of public information one, though.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        Given that we’re starting to see more malicious vandalism aimed at substations, I can understand a certain amount of reluctance. A friend who consults for some small utilities on data and plant security recommends that nothing about substations should be considered public information. I’ve told her that seems rather extreme; given Google Earth and a bit of time, if I’m a terrorist it’s not hard to find the big substations I really want to damage. But it’s easier to have a single rule for all substations than to try to make distinctions…Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        A friend who consults for some small utilities on data and plant security recommends that nothing about substations should be considered public information.

        Egads, what a horrible idea. Even from a security perspective.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Ha. I got a lot of grief for writing about water supplies after 9/11, you know, revealing the locations of things you can see on Google, that folks have known about since they were built. I knew other reporters who faced similar issues over the power grid and pipelines.

        But one of the really beautiful things about our country is that this stuff is hanging out there for everybody to see. You can look at it, up close and in enough detail to identify cats. Churches, temples, mosques, schools, shopping malls — all out there, clearly labeled.

        And you know what, generally when they make it into the news for acts of violent terrorism, it’s our own crazies.

        But good civil defense planning does require secondary egress. While on the board of the local arts council, I spent a year working on bringing the folks who do the Newport Jazz Festival in to the local ski area. Nice bowl in the mountains, lots of hotels and restaurants, golf courses, wilderness hiking, covered bridges, swimming holes, waterfalls. Pretty awesome place.

        But only a two lane road in and out; and they were reluctant to shoulder the insurance liability without a secondary access. So all for naught. Sigh.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Not to stare the rabbit hole in the face or anything but how big a problem have artificially generated stampedes proven to be in the last, oh, decade or so?

      (Loved the Vince McMahon post, by the way!)Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        Here in the U.S., not so many. Worldwide, that’s a different story.

        Chronicle of Hajj disasters from that link above:

        1990: 1426 pilgrims killed by stampede/asphyxiation in tunnel leading to holy sites
        1994: 270 killed in a stampede
        1997: 343 pilgrims died and 1500 injured in a fire
        1998: 119 pilgrims died in a stampede
        2001: 35 pilgrims died in a stampede
        2003: 14 pilgrims died in a stampede
        2004: 251 pilgrims died in a stampede
        2006: 76 pilgrims died after a hotel housing pilgrims collapsed; a stampede wounded 289, killing 380

        That’s 9/11 sorta numbers, there, albeit spread out.Report

  26. Avatar Kevin says:

    I couldn’t agree more.This is about our freedom of speech and how the new world order wants to shut up and criminalize anyone who dares to speak freely and anti politically correct.We are sovereign beings under the creator of the Universe and not under bondage to man.Report

  27. Avatar Jeff says:

    Integrity is what you do when no one is watching [or listening].Report

  28. Avatar Danny says:

    We offer free speech to all sorts of horrible groups because the 2nd amendment. NAMBLA, Nazis, all sorts of hate groups. I don’t like or agree with what was said but I don’t see how this is any different than my boss being a member of a hate group. Someone explain it to me.Report

  29. Avatar Simonzee1 says:

    The illiberal left wing fascist West is so blind.
    Neville Rann who’s funeral is today in N.S W Australia was one of the most successful Premiers. He said that he can deal with anthing but stupidity because stupidity will bring the roof down on you. We are seeing this with the post-Christian world and the West where there is an intolerance for religion…tradition and custom and people are biting back including conservative America.

    They have had enough of Democrats and their left-wing Hollywood culture which Obama says best represents Americas values.

    As I said whether in Egypt or Turkey in Uganda and Kenya or Brunei there is a growing push against left-wing militant Western thought which is anti-religion….custom and tradition.

    The left wing Obama administration aided by Cameron…Sarkosy…Hollande and Merkel and the E.U have no credibility in their absolute vision of power and Ukraine is a case in point. People…Russia has had enough with these so called elites…Brussels elites and there will be a revival of religion….tradition…custom.

    The question is whether these undemocratic power bases in the West will seek to clamp down violently through force and regulation or surrendor acknowledging their ignorance and stupidity in foreign affairs.

    In this fact alone Russia has triumphed.

  30. Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

    Is it just me or is this comment thread now populated largely by perl scripts slapping together vaguely related sentences pulled from Google searches on politics? What would happen if we asked one about the weather?Report

  31. Avatar Simonzee1 says:

    Obviously a different standard being applied by left wing fascists in the mainstream media between a white Jew like Clippers owner Stirling to a black guy who mocks a disabled man. No one is calling for Shaq to be kicked out of the NBA.

    • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

      You are a delight to have in this thread. Don’t let anyone tell you any different.Report

    • Avatar j r says:

      You do knot that Shaq isn’t in the NBA anymore, right? And the league takes action against players and coaches all the time for saying things in press conferences or on Twitter. The NBA is a private association and they can enforce whatever norms they want.

      By the way, as I said above, this is an off post. And one of the reasons that I say that is that this type of straw-man beating tends to attract real life straw men like @simonzee1 here.Report

  32. Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

    I’m not wrong in thinking that there’s been a lot of weirdness in this particular comment thread, right?Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      I’m thinking Google Alerts have no way to parse ‘sarcasm’ in a post title/tags, probably. Something to consider in the future.Report

  33. Avatar Justin says:

    The right to free speech applies to freedom from government prosecution. However, we live in a free society, and therefore, employers and organizations have the freedom to judge what is appropriate employee/member behavior. Therefore, the NBA is free to enact all these punishments on Sterling based on their assessment of his behavior.

    Think about customer service in any workplace. If an employee starts saying offensive things in front of customers, the employer has the full right to fire that employee because those offensive comments are not good for their business. The same applies to the NBA. If one of their members is found to be saying things that are highly offensive to a large customer base, it is probably good business to disassociate themselves from that member. The constitutional right to free speech only protects these individuals from being criminally prosecuted.Report

  34. Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:


    I understand your position, but believe that on the vast majority of issues, we will never see this sort of critique/response/outrage/etc. The CEO who believes in a less structured regulatory regime will almost certainly never come in for the criticism that Eich did, if only because the issue is more technical, more specific, more whatever. There are only a few issues in American politics that are likely to rise to the level we’ve seen here, and they almost certainly involve social issues like gay marriage.

    What Eich was advocating for wasn’t an issue limited to the political sphere. That’s why it has engendered such a furious response. Gay marriage is one of those issues that strays well beyond the idea of the “political sphere” that you’re describing. It isn’t a political issue. It is a deeply personal one. As with all other gay marriage opponents, Eich wanted the government ruin lives per his own moral beliefs and was willing to pay money to make it happen. I don’t see how we are meant to imagine his endorsement of that as existing solely within a “political sphere.” If we did that – if we imagined gay marriage simply as a political issue and ignored its huge ramifications – we do its opponents a favor and get nothing in return. After all, it was precisely because of the real world implications of these bans that opinions have changed, that Eich’s stance has become so odious to so many.

    As for the appeal of tradition in opposing gay marriage: so much of tradition is bigotry. They’re practically synonymous terms. I think here we almost certainly disagree with one another and may not find a middle ground. But people opposed to interracial marriage on the grounds of tradition should be understood to have been bigots. That’s what they were. Just because they pointed to tradition doesn’t absolve them of what they were endorsing. Or why they were endorsing it.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:


      If I can play a bit of a devil’s advocate…

      You mention that people who oppose SSM “want the government [to] ruin lives per his own moral beliefs”. But at least some people who oppose SSM do so under the belief that allowing it will somehow ruin or otherwise negatively impact their own lives. Now, I both reject that argument AND think their claims are far weaker than those of same sex couples being denied marriage rights because the latter can point towards objective measures of harm (e.g., higher tax rates because of an inability to file claims as a couple). That said, it doesn’t necessarily mean those who feel harmed by the allowance of SSM feel any less harmed OR that the only harm worth considering is that which can be measured (though an argument could be made that we should limit our considerations to such type).

      So, with that in mind, what if people opposed to SSM — people who genuinely believed their lives were made worse by allowing SSM — rose up and boycotted or protested a CEO who supported SSM and led to his ouster? What would you say then? If your argument is predicated on the idea that we leave the political sphere when people’s lives are harmed, you open up the argument for anyone who feels harmed by a political measure.Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

        I would welcome those social conservatives to offer us literally any evidence at all which would support their claim. It isn’t simply enough to claim that a harm has been done, surely. So if there is a CEO out there whose support of gay marriage has hurt socially conservative families, I would welcome evidence along the lines of the evidence available to those gay couples who could no longer legally marry after Eich got what he paid for: a vicious campaign and a political victory. My guess is that they don’t have that evidence – Lord knows they haven’t up to now – but who knows? Maybe it’s out there.

        The point remains that I wouldn’t object to a campaign to ouster a pro-gay-marriage CEO on free speech grounds. Being criticized for the things you’ve voluntarily said isn’t the same as not being able to say them.Report

      • Kazzy has me right.

        The point is that it doesn’t matter whether their arguments or claims are plausible. What matters is that a group of people believe they are harmed by a given policy preference, regardless of whether their belief has objective merit. In a culture where political views are deemed as or more important than how you treat those with whom you come in actual contact, such a group will – no less than those who actually are harmed by a given policy – purge those who work for its companies or live within its circle whose policy preferences are deemed to support the given policy.

        You dismiss this by insisting that this sort of thing could in practice only ever be limited to a handful of issues. I think you’re wrong on this (see below), but let’s say for the sake of argument that it never even goes beyond this specific issue of SSM. As far as SSM has come, the fact is that at least one in every three Americans remains opposed; and in 2008, when Eich made his donation, the majority of Americans were opposed.

        Are we comfortable with a culture in which one’s position on same sex marriage in 2008 determines who you can work for, who will be your friends, and where you shop? Are we comfortable with a culture in which those who were/are on the pro-SSM side need to actively hide their views if they happen to work for a company or reside in a circle of friends that is on the anti-SSM side? And vice versa? In such a world, how does the pro-SSM side’s dramatic progress in changing minds and combatting bigotry not stop in its tracks? Is this not a recipe for, in essence, abandoning gays who still find themselves in anti-SSM cultural segments?

        Note – I’m not saying you should have sympathy for Eich in particular or any other opponent of SSM. I’m instead asking whether a world in which one’s position on SSM determines with whom one comes into contact is a good thing.

        Remember, Eich didn’t exactly advertise his position on SSM or his donations to oppose it. He didn’t travel around the state giving speeches denouncing it. All he did was make a donation. At some point, someone else decided that his position on SSM was important and relevant and decided to do the research on it – it’s that impetus to dig into a given person’s political views without them publicizing those views that so horribly bugs me.

        In the Sterling case, it happened in reverse, and bugged me no less – there, he did something that demonstrated himself to be a horrible human being in his interactions with people around him, and within hours we had people researching and touting his campaign donations as proof of their team’s superiority (they had egg on their face a day later when his registration came out). But his political views were frankly never relevant – he was a horrible person caught openly acting on his racism in his interpersonal dealings. He was not previously known as a political figure. So why in the world would his political affiliation be something even worth discussing unless we take the view that anything we do in the political realm is more important than what we do in the rest of our lives?

        Regardless, there’s no evidence that we’re only talking about a handful of issues, much less a handful of issues on which the battle lines are entirely static.* As I said, it’s almost inconceivable to find a policy position that no one perceives as being harmful. While it’s true that this isn’t much of an issue when it comes to the minutiae of specific (usually economic) policies whose effects are difficult for the average person to understand, let’s not pretend that these are issues that get people to the polls or get people to volunteer or make donations. Nor do all economic policies fit this bill.

        It was only a couple of years ago that there was a boycott of Whole Foods because of its principal’s opposition to Obamacare. In the climate of today, just four years later, I suspect that such a boycott might actually succeed in forcing him to resign. Nor is it exactly difficult to foresee one’s position on Keystone or fracking becoming a litmus test issue.

        But even if we keep it confined to the realm of social issues, let’s not pretend that those issues are few in number: affirmative action, abortion, voting rights, immigration, religious freedom, and gun rights all rapidly come to mind, just to name a few.

        On each of these issues, a supermajority of both Team Red and Team Blue are on the same side. But there are dissenters on each side and on each issue. Are we comfortable with the cultural effects of insisting that those dissenters on each side keep their mouths shut lest they risk not only their status as members of said team in good standing, but also risk being deemed horrible human beings that must lose their jobs and friends?Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:


        Several points, in no particular order:

        1. Let’s start with the idea that Eich was a taking a position held by the majority of Americans. I don’t understand why that excuses what he donated to. Lots of Americans were opposed to interracial marriage to. Are we meant to excuse that because, at the time, bigotry ran rampant? “Oh, that was just his generation, back when they hated the idea of blacks and white marrying!” No, I don’t think we do. Or at least, we shouldn’t. Things change.

        Eich, it should be noted, hasn’t changed. He refused on multiple occasions to acknowledge the campaign that he had supported. Some people (Reihan Salam was one, if I’m remembering correctly) praised this as evidence of the man’s core convictions. That though is precisely the problem. His core conviction is that the government should oppress gay people because his morals demand it.

        2. You wrote, “Are we comfortable with a culture in which one’s position on same sex marriage in 2008 determines who you can work for, who will be your friends, and where you shop?” And the answer is, no and yes. No in terms of it having happened in the way that you’re describing. Nobody is forbidden from working somewhere because of their support in 2008 for discriminatory legislation, nor are they prevented from befriending anybody, nor are they prevented from shopping anywhere. Yes in terms of there sometimes being natural consequences for actions which individuals engage in an offensive act, and then refuse to account for it in any sort of substantive way. Before you say, “But he shouldn’t have to apologize, if that’s what he believes!” I’m with you regarding apology, but I will not then bind everybody that he deals with in the future to a certain sort of behavior. I’m not going to obligate somebody to be the man’s friend, for example. And I’d be particularly taken aback if a group of friends who supported the rights of gays to marry were friends with somebody who routinely and unapologetically declared that gay relationships were unworthy of legal recognition. I struggle to even imagine that scenario.

        3. Sterling might not have been known as political figure, but he was a criminal one, having been investigated on multiple occasions for discriminatory housing practices. Is that non-political and thus unworthy of consideration? (As for political registration, he was once a Democrat and is now a Republican. Where is the egg located?)

        4. Nobody anywhere is asking for anybody to keep their mouths shut. But the notion that there are consequences to speaking freely are hardly new, as a thousand activists from a thousand different movements can attest. Of course, those thousand different movements were only rarely conservative in nature. Conservatives are so unused to this sort of treatment that it becomes a significant outrage whenever it does occur, but three examples (Eich, Rice, and Sterling) are HARDLY an example of a society tilting wildly out of control and abandoning its alleged commitment to free speech principles. It is but a small taste of what everybody else in this country has gone through for generations, one in which speaking carries with it a price, sometimes predictable and sometimes otherwise. Generally, this price is a good thing. It forces people to decide when they are and aren’t truly committed to the things they want to express publicly. Maybe that’s unreasonable but I’m hardly certain of that.

        But there are dissenters on each side and on each issue. Are we comfortable with the cultural effects of insisting that those dissenters on each side keep their mouths shut lest they risk not only their status as members of said team in good standing, but also risk being deemed horrible human beings that must lose their jobs and friends?Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        But even if we keep it confined to the realm of social issues, let’s not pretend that those issues are few in number: affirmative action, abortion, voting rights, immigration, religious freedom, and gun rights all rapidly come to mind, just to name a few.

        But empirically speaking, they do seem to be few in number. I don’t think that there have been many serious cases of boycotts or otherwise major pressure brought to bear over most of those issues, probably because the number of people who feel personally and passionately enough about them is relatively small. At some point, we have to accept that most of the time, issues won’t be taken to that extreme simply because there isn’t enough pent up passion about them to make such collective action take off. We’re not asking “What will happen if we allow these boycotts?” They already are allowed, and they seem to be pretty rare.

        Another post talked about the fact that we all sort of agree to live in peace and let our political system have the final say, even on issues we’re very passionate about. That’s important. It keeps anti-abortion activists and anti-war activists from forming militias and rising up in rebellion every six months. But I don’t think that we can take from that the conclusion that it’s never acceptable to rebel, no matter how high the stakes.

        If our government managed to pass some constitutional amendments and start legally committing genocide against some of our population, I think most of us would agree that it’s time to rise up. But by acknowledging that fact and not coming up with some concrete limiting principle, are we saying that it’s OK to start planting IEDs on a half cent sales tax increase? I don’t think we are. I think we generally understand that such actions are reserved for extreme cases, and we know those cases when we see them.

        The issue seems to be largely self regulating in practice. Attempts to go over the top almost invariably fizzle. People are either mostly reasonable or mostly apathetic or some combination of the two.Report

      • Avatar Creon Critic says:

        “From Brooklyn Heights to Boise…”

      • Yeah, you’re still missing the point. Maybe I’m not being clear enough.

        I’m warning about the consequences of having the first response to encountering a person, either in person or in the news, being “let me know your politics before I decide what to think about you.”

        I’m warning about the consequences of allowing a single position on a single issue dictate not only that person’s public image, but also their private relationships.

        You and I surely agree that Donald Sterling’s behavior was made no better when it was learned he had, long ago, given some small donations to a Democrat; you and I surely also agree that his behavior was made no worse when it was learned that he’s actually a registered Republican. Yet his political affiliation was literally the first thing that a lot of folks (in this case, people on the Right) wanted to know about the story. When they initially thought he was a Democrat, they piled on mercilessly – and now they’re suddenly silent or, worse, defending him. Well, you say, that’s because conservatives are evil human beings. To which I say: so what? All they’re doing is granting primacy to politics over all other aspects of one’s person, which is precisely what you’re advocating. And what’s more, they still get a vote, just like you, their money is still worth the same amount as yours, they’re no better or worse at their jobs than you, and they’re no more or less loyal and reliable than you.

        Similarly, you and I surely agree that there are some liberals who have all the right social views, but are total assholes not worth knowing and in fact are complete hypocrites. And I at least think that there are conservatives well worth knowing despite them having all the wrong social views.

        Now, maybe you personally do not wish to associate with anyone who has the wrong political views on social issues. Ok, fine – that’s totally your right, and it’s frankly none of my business.

        But let’s aggregate that worldview to one in which the cultural norm is that employees or members of a circle of friends are expected to either be silent or share the employer’s or group’s political views on social issues. A world in which we shop only at businesses whose leadership supports our positions, are only friends with people who share our positions, and in which no job interview is complete without the employer demanding to know our political views lest they be surprised when it turns out you’re on the other side.

        How, exactly, is a pluralistic democracy supposed to function as a practical matter when the average person can avoid so much as coming into contact with someone who has an opposing viewpoint, much less someone who actually expresses that opposing viewpoint?

        I’m not making a normative argument as to the justifications for opposing SSM or any other issue. Nor am I even saying that opposition to SSM should be excused – I really don’t give a crap. I am, however, saying that there’s something deeply disturbing about a culture in which one’s position on SSM (or any other political issue) should automatically override every single other aspect of your person, to the point that it’s just about the first thing that others need to know about you.Report

      • @troublesome-frog I’m actually not objecting to boycotts generally. Above, I made clear that boycotts are not only consistent with free speech, they’re part of it. I’m not even concerned with going after people who use their positions of power or status to loudly and in great detail promote their political views. If you want to make yourself a political figure, or if you want to define yourself by your politics, then it’s fair to say that you are quite literally asking people to judge you by your politics.

        The Eich situation bugs me not because he was forced out for his views on Same Sex Marriage, but because the only thing we know about those views is that in 2008 he opposed it and voted with his wallet in a comparatively modest amount, and the only reason we even know that much is because someone went digging through a previously somewhat obscure database. In other words, the only reason we know his position is because someone else decided that we needed to know those views. And the resulting backlash that led to his resignation says that not only is a person’s position on SSM important to know, but that whether they supported it or opposed it, regardless of their rationale, is literally the only thing about them that should matter.

        That type of backlash hasn’t spread to other issues. Yet. After all, before Brandon Eich, it hadn’t spread to SSM either.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:


        The Eich situation bugs me not because he was forced out for his views on Same Sex Marriage, but because the only thing we know about those views is that in 2008 he opposed it and voted with his wallet in a comparatively modest amount, and the only reason we even know that much is because someone went digging through a previously somewhat obscure database.

        This is the one thing that puts the Eich situation into a gray area that I don’t see for Rice or Sterling: We really don’t know anything about him now. It’s not an issue of ongoing behavior, and it’s not an issue of his using whatever platform his professional position gave him to push his views. It’s far enough back in history that he could be a completely different person now, and going after him for something several years in the past may not be fair. With Rice and Sterling, we know very well their positions on issues that make them totally unsuited for their positions.

        And the resulting backlash that led to his resignation says that not only is a person’s position on SSM important to know, but that whether they supported it or opposed it, regardless of their rationale, is literally the only thing about them that should matter.

        In some cases, it may be the only thing. At least, not actively opposing it may be a necessary but insufficient condition for being the CEO of a particular company. If the question is, “Should I be friends with this guy?” or “Should I let this guy near my kids?” then it’s definitely not the only thing I’d consider. But if the question is, “Should this guy represent our organization, one which relies on the goodwill of a volunteer pool that has strong personal feelings on the issue?” it may well be the only thing you need to know.

        Certainly we can conceive of some political stances that would legitimately make you untouchable as a CEO if they came out, even if they didn’t ask you about those views as a litmus test before hiring you, and even if those views may not disqualify you from other jobs or social connections. Whether this is one of those issues seems to me to be more a question of broad public opinion than one of principled lines in the sand.Report

      • Avatar zic says:


        Just to remind you, protests over Eich began with people who worked with him; they expressed value for him in other ways, and questioned if he was a match as leader to the Foundation’s mission.

        I think that’s important to keep in perspective considering the open source nature of the Mozilla Foundation. It depends on the generosity of the development community, and must respect that community’s values. Nobody had a problem with him as CFO.

        There is a vetting for the CEO; the top of the pyramid, that includes public opinion and the opinions of special interest groups.Report

      • Avatar Creon Critic says:

        I think @mark-thompson is overstating his case, and your point that “We really don’t know anything about [Eich] now.” is incorrect. There was a one week time period between when the initial outcry over Eich’s appointment began and when he resigned. During that time period he gave interviews and had an opportunity to explain himself. That was the critical time period for reassurances and convincing the skeptical that he could lead the organization.

        Given that opportunity, I’d draw attention to two comments on Eichs behavior. In short, they describe an empathy failure on Eich’s part rather than a simple case of, “You have the wrong political position. You’re fired.” If Eich didn’t have that crucial week, Mark Thompson’s case would be stronger.

        First from Rarebit CEO,

        … We never expected this to get as big as it has and we never expected that Brendan wouldn’t make a simple statement. I met with Brendan and asked him to just apologize for the discrimination under the law that we faced. He can still keep his personal beliefs, but I wanted him to recognize that we faced real issues with immigration and say that he never intended to cause people problems.

        It’s heartbreaking to us that he was unwilling to say even that.

        We absolutely don’t believe that everyone who voted yes on Prop 8 is evil. In fact, we’re sure that most of them just didn’t understand the impact the law would have. That’s why so many people have changed their mind in 4 short years – because they saw the impact and pain that the law caused to friends and family members.

        People think we were upset about his past vote. Instead we were more upset with his current and continued unwillingness to discuss the issue with empathy….

        The second, Mark Surman, Mozilla’s Executive Director (there’s a link from the Rarebit post),

        … It’s important to remember that all heroes are also human. They struggle. And they often have flaws. Brendan’s biggest flaw, IMHO, was his inability to connect and empathize with people. I’ve seen and felt that over the years, finding Bredan brilliant, but distant. And you certainly saw it this past week, as many calm and reasonable people said “Brendan, I want you to lead Mozilla. But I also want you to feel my pain.” Brendan didn’t need to change his mind on Proposition 8 to get out of the crisis of the past week. He simply needed to project and communicate empathy. His failure to do so proved to be his fatal flaw as CEO….


      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:


        To my mind, I’m not missing your point, I’m simply not conceding it. I do not believe that we are going through a period in which our first ask is for a person’s politics. So let’s start with this: of our three working examples – Eich, Rice, and Sterling – surely it was Eich’s politics that were the least known. Is that fair?

        If it is, do we really think anybody said, “Let me know your politics before I decide what to think about you.” If that was a genuinely asked question, wouldn’t it have been asked long before he managed to ascend to the CEO’s chair at a major (?) tech firm? If anything, for people becoming newly associated with Eich, his politics came as part of their introduction to him, not because they asked, but having risen to the CEO of a major (?) tech firm while being vehemently opposed to gay equality is precisely the sort of asterisk that would come attached to anybody. I suppose we might say that it is unfair that an asterisk is attached to anybody, although I don’t necessarily know why we would think that, and I definitely don’t know why anybody would think that of somebody on Eich’s level of exposure, representation, power (?), etc. (I keep putting in question marks because I really don’t know the relative strength of Mozilla versus anybody else.)

        As for Sterling and the games people wanted to play with political affiliations, we know why that happened: people wanted separation. “He’s not our guy!” they wanted to claim. But the racism was racism no matter what. That’s what people were objecting to. Not Sterling’s political party, but rather, his plainly racist views.

        You keep saying that I’m insisting that politics be considered first and foremost when it comes to evaluating people, but I think you’d actually have a difficult time finding a quote where I say explicitly that. But, for whatever it is worth, I will acknowledge that I unwilling to absolutely put them aside, especially when they’re political views being advocated are extremist in their intolerance. And let’s not pretend for his sake what Eich was willing to pay for was anything more than extremist intolerance as enforced by government agents, something those scolding his critics seem unwilling to acknowledge. It is, apparently, more important that Eich be allowed to ask for unequal treatment for gay citizens than it is to criticize him for having done so. I don’t understand that conclusion at all, unless the point is to the bias the conversation in favor of conservative, traditional views. (Which, of course, our nation has an incredibly long history of doing…)

        As for associating with people who hold the wrong views. I live in West Virginia. In what world are my views the predominant ones. I assure you that, more often than not, I am an outsider politically whose extreme social liberalism gains no traction here at home, especially among the older people that I often associate with. The issue isn’t one of banning these people from my lives. But none of these people are the CEOs of tech companies who have donated $1000 to see that gay people are treated badly. Maybe they have. And if I knew about, maybe that would radically change my opinion of them. But to believe something privately, especially something unexamined, is very different in my mind than what Eich did. One very certainly knows the score when he is willing to pay good money for something.

        Needless to say I want to reiterate that my position is not one in which politics should dominate, but rather, one wherein they should not be excluded from consideration, nor ignored from understanding, and certainly not because doing either threatens that person’s free speech.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:


        I think this right here is where you lose me:

        “especially when they’re political views being advocated are extremist in their intolerance.”

        Isn’t an opinion that’s upheld by the majority of not only California but the entire country — even in most blue states — by definition pretty mainstream?Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

        @tod-kelly In 2014? Eich doesn’t get a pass because he was with the majority in 2008, just as unrepentant racists don’t get a pass simply because theirs was the majority position in the 1950s. Times have changed and Eich hasn’t changed with them, apparently. He doesn’t get a medal for his remaining committed to his bigotry. Or, perhaps more accurately, a spot as the CEO of a major tech firm.

        Eich chose to prioritize his bigotry. That there were consequences for that was presumably something he was smart enough to understand. Why is he owed anything more than what he received? And, perhaps most importantly, would we feel the same way about Eich if he’d donated to groups opposed to interracial marriage as opposed to gay marriage? I think Eich’s being given leeway here because of the (relative) newness of the issue. Had he taken a similarly combative position on a more settled issue, I doubt seriously that he’d have many of the defenders that he enjoys today.

        As evidence, I’d point to the relative disconnect between those defending Eich and those defending Sterling. My impression (perhaps a wrong one) is that Sterling is getting less support because we’re much less comfortable with his racism than we are with Eich’s bigotry. Eich’s bigotry is more recognizable only because the issue is a newer one, not because it is any less vile in its substance or demands.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        @sam-wilkinson Well, then — that is thing.

        Can you point me to some of this stuff about Eich? My understanding was that he was protested (and subsequently fired) because he made a donation in 2008.

        Do you have more current stuff on his positions, or are you painting in a lot of your current picture of him on your own?Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

        @tod-kelly Can we start by clarifying that Eich was not fired? He resigned. It does Eich a totally unnecessary favor to portray him as having been fired.

        As for filling in the blanks – where have I done that exactly? He voluntarily gave $1000 to support a campaign pushing the belief that gay people were a direct threat to children. Nobody forced him to donate that money. What else can possibly be concluded about either him or his position? Why does anybody owe him the benefit of concluding that he was a decent man who respect gays when he clearly believed that they were not worth of equal legal recognition?

        And why does it remain so difficult to answer the question about him having donated to a cause opposed to interracial marriage? Had he done that – had he voluntarily spent his own money supporting a campaign in which advertisements demonized interracial couples as a threat to children – would he still be receiving the same full-throated support and endorsement? Or would we be more comfortable with him having been vociferously criticized for his politics?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        to believe something privately, especially something unexamined, is very different in my mind than what Eich did.

        Stay in the closet, eh? Hold those beliefs if you must, but don’t dare utter or act on them.

        It seems not so different from what gays were told for so long.Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

        @james-hanley And how many gays paid a significant, heavy price for taking a public stand for what they believed and, more importantly, who they were? But now that one conservative somewhere has received blowback – not punishment, mind you, not firing, mind you – but just blowback for his outright bigotry, we need to stop everything to give the entire nation a lecture about what is and isn’t appropriate? Now we need to emphasize the importance of free speech and of toleration and of letting people be? What an incredible handout for conservative bigots, especially in a day and age when gays are still fired simply for being gay.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:


        And how many gays paid a significant, heavy price for taking a public stand for what they believed and, more importantly, who they were?

        Hopefully all of them! That is the logic of your argument, anyway.

        But now that one conservative somewhere has received blowback – not punishment, mind you, not firing, mind you – but just blowback for his outright bigotry, we need to stop everything to give the entire nation a lecture about what is and isn’t appropriate?

        No, we need to apply separate rules for separate people, just like those you hate do.

        Now we need to emphasize the importance of free speech and of toleration and of letting people be?

        No, now we need to de-emphasize the importance of free speech and toleration because we don’t like what they’re saying.

        What an incredible handout for conservative bigots, especially in a day and age when gays are still fired simply for being gay.

        No kidding. When will people understand that the fight for equality is never won until we have the right to deny other people the same rights and privileges we’ve been fighting for ourselves.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        Here’s my point, Sam.

        Is Eich’s position bigoted? Yes, absolutely. Is Eich, therefore, a bigot? Unless he’s radically changed his mind in the past 6 years, probably. You and I agree on this — you really don’t need to argue on this point any more for my benefit. Seriously — you can’t disagree with someone who’s agreeing with you, and we agree on this.

        Here’s where you and I disagree:

        You, Sam, are also a bigot. As am I. We both support people — writers, politicians, and business people — who work to maintain a bigoted, sexist, white-supremist society. We even do it here,in public, on these pages.

        I could be wrong about this next bit, but I suspect you disagree with that, and that you divide up the country into Bigots and Non-Bigots. If so, then, again, we are in disagreement.

        And in the case of bigotry levied against gays, it’s especially tricky. Because I know that we who have been on the pro-SSM side of the debate longer than others like to think we are are without sin and have always stood where we do now, but I highly doubt most of the straight, male people here who are over 20 didn’t spend some part of their past disparaging things for “being totally gay” or tell another dude they didn’t like that he was a “f**got.”

        Up until about a year ago, being anti-SSM was the official position of the Democratic Party as well as a certain President that everyone here that thinks Eich shouldn’t be allowed a public leadership position voted for in 2008 and supported for reelection four years later.

        If I recall correctly, back when this topic’s future was still up in the air, I was the only freaking guy on this site that insisted being anti-SSM was by definition bigoted. And while it’s genuinely nice to see that everyone else is finally coming around to my way of thinking, drawing the line at who is and isn’t “unacceptable” in modern society *right past the place where you stood* is both dangerous and disingenuous.

        So no, I’m not saying that Eich’s position is acceptable. It’s not. That position should be fought and fought hard until people who have it sound as out of key with modern society as those that think the “races shouldn’t mix.” But I”m not on board with casting out the last 55% of the country who were not so advanced in their thinking as you and I as quickly as we were — especially when we continue to support leaders that did far more damage to GLBT community that Eich ever did.

        I don’t know what it is with everyone that it isn’t enough to win a long-overdue victory for civil rights, you have to have an enemy to hate as well.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:

        The problem with this subthread is that you (James & Sam) are just taking each other’s position to the extreme condition and saying, “Well gee, doesn’t *that* suck! We should do it this other way!”

        Look, fellas, we can all agree that everything else being equal, shooting someone in the face is not okay, right?

        But there are times when shooting someone in the face is the lesser of two evils, right?

        The tension between free speech (i.e., speech without government interference), free speech (speech without societal interference), freedom of association, and all that isn’t going to go away. The tension is there. The principles exist in tension, because they are and can be at cross purposes to each other, and they can be aligned with other normative principles of justice or fairness, and they can be completely orthogonal with those same principles.

        Speech is a tool. When people use it the way we want it to be used, we’re going to be supportive of that. When people use it the way we don’t want it to be used, we’re not going to be supportive of that, and we’re going to try and offset that… somehow.

        (edited to add)

        We’ve all agreed here in the States that using the government to shut that down is not okay. That already puts us as an outlier among all the other first world nations, really. I don’t know that “don’t reply, react, or use your freedom of association to try and influence bigots, it’s only okay to respond to them with speech is a very productive principle, myself. (/edited)

        Because the driving force is our principles of fairness and justice, not our commitment to what can pour out of someone’s pie hole and what is an appropriate response to it.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        He simply needed to project and communicate empathy. His failure to do so proved to be his fatal flaw as CEO

        If only Steve Jobs were still alive. (Guffaw.)Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        When I lived in Deseret, I worked for a Very Mormon Employer. During a round of layoffs, they let two out of the three lawyers go. A week or so later, the CEO discovered that the sole remaining lawyer was gay, and he was fired. I objected. Heck, most of my Mormon coworkers objected or at least didn’t argue while we ranted. The LDS Church itself has come out against workplace discrimination against gays.

        If I’d signed a petition to make gay marriage legal, or donated money to the cause, and the CEO found out about it, I don’t think I would have been fired or that my career advancement would have been halted. At least, not until 2008, by which time I was gone by when the anti-Prop 8 folks ran an ugly anti-Mormon ad. At that point, he might just have been pissed off enough to start checking into his employees.

        A whole lot of the arguments here could easily have been used to defend such actions. Some of them would have been accurate, that there were no First Amendment issues. Others I would have essentially agreed with – that he should be within his legal rights to retaliate against me for my ideology. And if he had merely turned me down from a promotion, and I’d resigned (which I probably would have) that wouldn’t be the same thing as actually firing me. And most of all, that I chose political participation and knew that I was taking risks when I elected to do so. Freedom of speech isn’t freedom from consequence.

        Even taking all of these into account, I am uncomfortable with a paradigm that says that it’s perfectly okay to go back and see if Will Truman signed a petition and to punish him – even moderately – for aligning himself with an anti-Mormon faction.

        There are differences and distinctions between the scenario above that I layed out and what happened to Eich. What disturbs me about a lot of the defenses of what happened to Eich is that they make no distinction. They act as though there is little or no tension here. I think the firing of Eich can be justified, though I also think that a lot of the arguments in favor of firing Eich can be used to justify a lot more as they preclude the notion that there is any sort of tension and that the opinion that any such tension exists must be related to an indifference towards gay rights.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:


        Respectfully, while I agree with most of your comment, I disagree with your assessment of the argument Sam and I are having.

        I fully agree that sometimes shooting someone in the fact is not the worst option. But there has to be a more principled ground for that than “we’re good and they’re bad, even though a decade ago most people thought they were good.”Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Vengeance is mine?

        This is a dangerous position to take, and one that, as it’s laid out here, suggests that it is perfectly OK to fire gay people for being gay, so long as that’s where history has us.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Because the driving force is our principles of fairness and justice, not our commitment to what can pour out of someone’s pie hole and what is an appropriate response to it.

        Patrick, I’m confident that you recognize that we can’t actually separate “what is an appropriate response” from “principles of fairness and justice.”Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:


        Patrick, I’m confident that you recognize that we can’t actually separate “what is an appropriate response” from “principles of fairness and justice.”

        Oh, sure, that’s my whole point, actually.

        Your principles of fairness and justice are going to dictate whether or not you should react to something. That’s normative reasoning (or should be).

        Your desired outcomes are going to dictate whether or not you should react with a given tactic. That’s consequentialist reasoning (or should be).

        I don’t know that trying to come up with normative principles regarding tactics is necessarily a fruitful conversation. That appears to be the conversation that you guys are having (to me, anyway).Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:


        No, my argument was succinctly stated by @chris, just above. I think @sam-wilkinson employs a double standard in this thread, or at least tiptoes incautiously along the edge of one.Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

        @james-hanley By all means, what double standard is that? That people engaging in speech can be criticized for what they say?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:


        At the risk of further trolling, you’re not against Eich having lost his promotion, while you would be against a gay activist having lost a promotion.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        What is the appropriate amount of career liability that I should have taken on if I had signed on to a pro-SSM petition, or donated money to one, in Deseret in 2006 or 2008? To what extent should we say that, really, all I had to do to keep my career track was keep my opinion to myself?Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        insert blasphemy here Eich had not been named CEO of just any tech company, he had been named CEO of a tech company owned by a non-profit foundation with a clear mission. That company is dependent on the volunteer labor of a vast, global community, and that community’s says, We believe this act of human collaboration across an open platform is essential to individual growth and our collective future.

        If Eich’s past actions are perceived as an affront by members of a community, it stands to reason they will withdraw their voluntary services and cease donating their time and resources to the Mozilla product line. That’s contrary to their mission. The fact that Eich’s promotion created that liability meant he was not a good choice to run the company.

        That donation was a matter of public record, and was totally fair game to consider when vetting a CEO; it should have come out before he was offered the job. I’m gonna get all reporter on you here and stick up for public information; it’s an essential to reporting on free and open government. You are welcome to discuss the limits of public information; but that’s a matter of CA state law. Both Mozilla and Eich acted in Mozilla’s best interest; no matter how the resignation happened, it was best for Mozilla because Eich was a liability that threatened the participation of the foundation’s volunteer developer base.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        @zic You’ve identified the primary basis on which I think Eich’s ouster can be justified. The specifics of the Mozilla model.

        That does make me wary of public access to these sorts of records. The benefits for donations might outweigh the drawbacks, though I’m doubling down on my belief that petition rolls should not be publicly disclosed.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Oh I think Eich had to go, but it was a business decision, not a punishment for past political transgressions. And where I think Sam is right is that people who are in the public eye, should they choose to take positions, should be prepared for those positions to make it into the light and to be held against them should they reflect poorly on their company or their constituency or their office or whatever.Report

      • Avatar Creon Critic says:

        Given the situation Eich was in, it did not help him that crucial constituents he needed to win over came away from meeting him thinking, “we were more upset with his current and continued unwillingness to discuss the issue with empathy”.Report

      • Avatar zic says:


        That does make me wary of public access to these sorts of records. The benefits for donations might outweigh the drawbacks, though I’m doubling down on my belief that petition rolls should not be publicly disclosed.

        What is public record is a legitimate conversation; I err on the side of disclosing donations. I think there it’s to the public’s benefit, and this is my single biggest issue with Citizens United; if it’s expression of free speech, it’s your speech and you are accountable for it. When you make a donation or sign a petition, you should carefully consider what you’re doing. (There is good reason to sign a petition for something you disagree with, too; particularly if it brings it before your legislative body, you are signing on to the legislative debate; and can as easily disagree with the request and plan to vote against it as support the effort.)

        I do think that most people are not aware of how much information about them is public record, or how easily that is collected and correlated with private information.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        I read this a few days ago. Jobs get annoyed that there was another Steve around, so he started calling him “Margaret”. Pretty soon, the guy was Margaret to everybody at Apple. Agreed, it’s kind of lovable when Dr. Cox does this to J.D, but that’s a sitcom, and the victim is Zach Braff.

        I’m not defending Eich, just laughing at the idea that CEOs need to be warm and fuzzy.Report

      • Avatar zic says:


        if a gay executive “resigns” under suspicious circumstances

        I’d say it totally depends upon the circumstances. I’m far to generous to think you’re blowing one of those old dog whistles like ‘they’re going to prey upon our kids.’ You know, like they blew in the Prop 8 commercials Eich helped pay for.

        Won’t somebody please think of the children.Report

      • @creon-critic To the extent the firing* was based on his direct interactions with Mozilla employees during the “crisis,” and the empathy gap, you’re absolutely correct that the actions are completely appropriate. If the statements in those quotes are truthful – and I have no reason to doubt them – then I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with Mozilla’s actions. Indeed, that eases my fears somewhat.

        But only somewhat. My bigger concern is that a small, single donation alone sparked a “crisis” years after it happened, combined with the narrative that it was the outside boycott that forced the resignation:

        My problem, in other words, is that one of the first things a troublingly large number of people unaffiliated with Mozilla wanted to know about Eich was his donation history and, upon finding out that he had once made a single small donation to support a referendum that, regardless of whether it was bigoted, was sufficiently mainstream to have passed, and that this was all they needed to know about the guy, or at least was the most significant thing about him.

        *And yes, Sam, it was most definitely a firing in all but name, as the quotes from Rarebit and the Mozilla Exec Director make pretty damn clearReport

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        I find the following easy to say:

        It is okay to fire a person for being a unapologetic homophobe. It is not okay to fire someone for being queer.

        The reason for this is simple: there is nothing wrong with being queer. It is natural and wonderful. There is something very wrong with being a homophobe. It shows an extreme lack of moral judgement.

        That this lack of moral judgement is common might be true, but this only makes it more pernicious.

        That what I say may be politically difficult is also true, which is why this battle continues and many homophobes remain horrible with impunity.

        This small battle is not the big battle. Shitty, homophobic bosses are as common as dirt.

        That “they might do it to us” is a really awful thing to say and shame on you. They have done it to us. A lot. To point this out is callous to an extreme degree.

        Seriously, anyone who has suggested that, shame on you. Shame and nothing but shame.

        To question strategy is reasonable, but to be blunt, I don’t trust the argument. To me it seems like derailing, a red herring, something to distract. It turns the lens on us and not on them.

        And, yes, there is a them and an us. That’s the reality, the life I’m given. Pick a side.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:


        I know what I’m gonna say isn’t news to you, but maybe it’s worth saying anyway (even in my halting, uncertain way).

        It seems to me that most (if not all) of the persistence of this and similar debates revolve around power structures. Sure, there’s a principle in play, but how and in what way people support the principle will often enough reduce to the position they hold with in those power structures and a willful desire to maintain that privileged place. An example would be the comment you’re responding to which, I take it, is about how if certain conditions are met gays will gain enough power to punish the bigots (or whatever, I dunno, I’ve never understood those arguments myself) and that that slippery slope (or reductio, or whatever it’s supposed to be) suffices to make some compelling point for the status quo. But the status quo is currently comprised of an unjustified – and unjustifiable, it seems to me – power differential and therefore those types of arguments only makes sense as an attempt to preserve those existing imbalances. Even if the person making the argument is completely ignorant of the underlying power dynamics and differentials.

        Corey Robin talks a lot about this in The Reactionary Mind and the more I see some of these issues play out in real time the more I’m inclined to agree with his central thesis.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:


        1. I don’t suppose why we have to sink to their level.

        2. Catholics gave the same reason to persecute protestants and vice versa. Catholics said that Protestantism was wrong and thus limiting their liberty to practice and spread Protestantism was not wrong. Protestants just reversed the equation.

        If your reply to this is, well, both Protestantism and Catholicism are actually wrong so neither of them was justified, then I want to know why you think the government should not in fact establish your preferred religious belief/non-belief as the official “religion*”. The key lesson of the enlightenment was that we give people space to be stupid and evil even when doing otherwise would benefit us (or even them). The difficult question is how much space.

        Eich donated $1000, which, for a CFO is small change, and given the size of the campaign ($39 million) is of only marginal contribution. In fact, voting, however negligible your contribution is worse than donating since in the aggregate having more votes means that you win the election while having more money doesn’t. In fact, the anti-prop8 side raised $44 million, which is much larger than the pro prop8 campaign and still lost. If you’re going to punish people for donating money (especially since the sum donated is small relative to the total amount collected), it is inconsistent to not punish them for voting. So, should anyone who votes republican be fired from their job?

        *I’m using the term religion broadly just so that the grammar comes out right. But, you know what I mean even if you don’t think that atheism counts as a religious belief. But technically, it is a religious belief insofar as religious beliefs are positions one takes on the existence and nature of the divine.Report

      • Avatar Creon Critic says:

        Because the European Wars of Religion are similar to protesting against the CEO of, were it private, what could be a Fortune 100 company? So-called persecution which amounted to stopping his promotion from CTO to CEO – somehow that resembles Catholic-Protestant persecution? Its reasoning, or its tactics? Show me the equivalence between the torture, executions, and wars – those were the tactics deployed in the dispute you cite – and the supremely non-violent protest here: OkCupid changed its landing page for Firefox users, Rarebit publicly announced it was freezing development on Mozilla platforms, people tweeted critical things about Mozilla. That is the proportion of the dispute that took place.

        On the other side, Catholic-Protestant conflict, you could be burned alive for being the wrong religion. Or tortured to death in even more barbaric ways than the recent Oklahoma execution. Show me where Eich critics have called for physical violence against him, arson, etc. I’m sure the various recipients of 16th and 17th century religious violence would have loved to have merely received strongly worded letters in response to accusations of heresy – instead of, you know, the death penalty. In Eich (Sterling, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali as well) case people said “I think you’re wrong because…” or “I won’t download your product because…” not “You’re wrong, and now you must die a gruesome death.”

        You get space to be (to a limited extent) evil and stupid under liberalism. You do not get immunity from criticism, entitlement to be CEO, entitlement to own an NBA franchise, or entitlement to an honor from Brandeis University. Civil society arguing it out, in part through boycotts, seems part and parcel of liberalism to me.

        (As for the narrower issue of firing people, I think it is entirely reasonable to change US employment law from at-will to for-cause. I’m fine with strengthening all employees’ capacities to garner explanations, an entitlement to independent arbitration or tribunals, and where appropriate get restitution for a more employee protective regime on improper termination.)Report

      • Avatar Murali says:


        Similar reasoning. You can’t just say “civil society” and get away with it. For example, even though I think that legally speaking employment should be at will. I think employers wrong their employees when they fire them for insufficient cause. And there is a sense in which at the very least, as a norm, we should not fire people without cause. As far as I know Eich did not get promoted because he donated what, in the larger picture, is a piddling amount to a campaign that was successful even when the opposition raised significantly more money. If we think that firing someone for non-work related reasons is the sort of thing that should not be done (regardless of whether the other side did it first) then we cannot say “but I’m willing to make an exception for this asshole”

        Then all we care about is just about punching up and punching down. The problem with the view that it is okay to punch as long as we are punching up is that people rarely see themselves as up and therefore they are willing to punch regardless of who it is because they almost always see themselves as throwing punches at people who deserve them and not at people who don’tReport

      • Avatar Creon Critic says:

        You can’t just say “civil society” and get away with it.

        I don’t quite understand what you mean by this.

        As for punching up versus punching down, isn’t it pretty clear that the CEO is up (particularly the CEO of a major player in the browser-tech sphere)? And further that the other examples we’ve heard during the course of this discussion (across several threads here at Ordinary Times) are not up: mid-level management, janitors, etc.?

        For instance, look at the kinds of reassurances Eich offered while he was CEO, Mozilla remaining inclusive, not changing benefits to adversely impact the LGBT employees, etc. All stuff a CEO has power over. Mid-level managment and the cleaning staff, less so.

        Furthermore, in terms of wealth and status the other individuals under consideration are also pretty easily up: a billionaire major league team owner (Sterling), a former Secretary of State with a tenured position at Stanford (Rice), and a past or present fellowship holder at major DC think tank and major universities (Hirsi Ali). It is highly unlikely that any of these people will be immiserated by the protests surrounding them.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:


        1. I’m just saying that civil society is not a free for all where it is morally acceptable to enact every form of private oppression we are able to get away with. Even if there are some things we shouldn’t enact into law, it does not follow that those aren’t norms that we ought to follow even when there is no law about it.

        2. Does Eich think that he is up and therefore properly permissible as a target of punching? At least within the context of his company, he has a discredited viewpoint.

        “Punch those who we think are up” is not a maxim we could will as a universal law. In particular we would not want those who we perceive as being up acting on it because many of them are going to perceive others who we don’t think as above the former as up. This is not a worry about consequences. This is a direct assessment about how we know a maxim accords with the moral law. We know it doesn’t when we are unwilling to let some others act on it.Report

      • Avatar Creon Critic says:

        Private oppression? Do you think oppression is an appropriate term in this case? For instance, this is (via Gizmodo) I think the full text of OkCupid’s message to Firefox users,

        Hello there, Mozilla Firefox user. Pardon this interruption of your OkCupid experience.

        Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OkCupid.

        Politics is normally not the business of a website, and we all know there’s a lot more wrong with the world than misguided CEOs. So you might wonder why we’re asserting ourselves today. This is why: we’ve devoted the last ten years to bringing people—all people—together. If individuals like Mr. Eich had their way, then roughly 8% of the relationships we’ve worked so hard to bring about would be illegal. Equality for gay relationships is personally important to many of us here at OkCupid. But it’s professionally important to the entire company. OkCupid is for creating love. Those who seek to deny love and instead enforce misery, shame, and frustration are our enemies, and we wish them nothing but failure.

        If you want to keep using Firefox, the link at the bottom will take you through to the site.

        However, we urge you to consider different software for accessing OkCupid:

        Does Eich think that he is up and therefore properly permissible as a target of punching? At least within the context of his company, he has a discredited viewpoint.

        It is of far less consequence to me whether Eich himself believes he is up or not. To me, as a matter of fact a CEO is up in a way that the cleaning staff is not. Decisions about benefits, corporate culture, and the environment for employees can reasonably said to be within the ambit of a CEO. Are you seriously suggesting that the CEO is not up?

        I’d have to think more seriously about the universal law dimension you raise. Tentatively, I’d point out something I’d written on another thread,

        To me, a call for a boycott is extremely difficult to separate from the substance of the issues being discussed – it is like direct action, civil disobedience, or conscientious objection that way. Each person gets to decide for themself, as you have, whether or not the calls are legitimate, proportionate, and reasonable. And acting together, sometimes campaigners or the general public will make the wrong choice. That’s part of civil society, that’s party of community, that’s part of democracy.

        Because there have been boycotts I disagree with doesn’t invalidate their use as a tactic. As a campaigner I certainly would not give up that tool for pointing out bigotry and shaming institutions, and their prospective leaders, into behaving better. Others will do the same for their respective campaigns be they pro-life, pro-choice, anti-Muslim, etc. No one said the good guys always win. As citizens we fight it out amongst one another. Again, that’s part of civil society, that’s party of community, that’s part of democracy.


    • Avatar Wardsmith says:

      @sam-wilkinson Should these anti-gay NBA players be fired?Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

        Two quick things:

        1. Eich wasn’t fired.
        2. We’re not talking about firing people. We’re talking about bringing them in for heavy criticism. And yes, anti-gay players should be criticized.Report

      • Avatar wardsmith says:

        Eich was indeed fired. Just because someone is allowed to “resign” doesn’t mean they did it voluntarily. The higher up the food chain you go, the easier it becomes to save face and resign rather than be escorted out by security. But don’t be fooled, refusal to take the resignation route means you WILL be escorted out by security even if the corporation has already written the press release stating that you “resigned”. Happens all the time and I watched a senior VP at a publicly traded company escorted out kicking and screaming and laughed the next day at what I read in the paper about his happy time with the company and his desire to explore new opportunities elsewhere.

        The Left likes to see people fired, because let’s face it criticism-schitism the paycheck and the perks is what matters most. Especially if someone has a valuable soapbox (think Oreilly, Limbaugh, Malkin, etc.) the calls for removal are all the shriller, because let’s face it, if you can’t win the arguments on the merits censorship looks mighty enticing. “O’Reilley should be fired” got 16.8 million hits on Google just now. Interestingly “Limbaugh should be fired” only got 2.8 million.Report

      • Avatar Patrick says:


        The Left likes to see people fired

        I wasn’t aware that this was a Left-only phenomenon.Report

      • Avatar wardsmith says:

        @patrick Touche!Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        Hope you’re sticking around, ws.Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

        @wardsmith If you want to talk about a fantasy land in which Eich was fired, we can do that, but he resigned. Those are the facts. Changing them to suit your needs doesn’t actually change them. It just makes it easier to draw your own preferred conclusions.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        “I like being able to fire people” — Mitt RomneyReport

      • Avatar wardsmith says:

        @sam-wilkinson So just to be clear, if a gay executive “resigns” under suspicious circumstances you’re perfectly OK with that person having resigned voluntarily and don’t get to add them to your narrative about discrimination against gays. They just happily quit a company they might have co-founded and put their blood sweat and tears into for decades. Can you share any of that sh*t you’re smoking?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        So you agree that Ken Lay was murdered to prevent lawsuits against him? I mean, talk about suspicious timing.Report

      • Avatar wardsmith says:

        @mike-schilling I agree with everyone who thinks you’re a fucking troll, does that count?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Wow, I couldn’t see that one coming 🙂Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        You can’t even fire an NBA player for physically assaulting his coach.Report

  35. Avatar Patrick says:

    Again, I think there’s a lot of digital ink spilled here to get to a foundational approach towards speech and I don’t think you guys are going to get anywhere.Report

  36. Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

    @james-hanley In response:

    1. The logic of my argument is not that people should pay a heavy price for taking a public stand for what they believe in, but rather, that they’re not immune to paying a heavy price on free speech grounds. The price paid by Eich (criticism) is very different from the price paid in large swathes of America by gays (firing, abuse, etc). Furthermore, the treatment visited upon gays is legally sanctioned by the government per laws designed to sooth socially conservative prerogatives. What similar protections do gays enjoy?

    2. Nobody is proposing separate rules. That you’re claiming otherwise is trolling at its finest but nothing more. Gays are open for criticism just like socially conservative Christians like Eich are, the difference being that socially conservative Christians are not fired simply for being socially conservative Christians. Gays are. That’s a system that Eich’s supporters enthusiastically embrace. Nobody anywhere has asked for the passage of anti-Christian laws that would create the same sort of unequal treatment that Eich was willing to pay for.

    3. Everybody in this case can still speak freely. Even Eich. Nobody has proposed changing that.

    4. What rights and privileges are you talking about? Eich was denied neither rights nor privileges. He was criticized for offering financially backing to a viciously anti-gay campaign. Is it your position that this criticism is out of line? That simply critiquing another person’s voluntarily chosen positions is out of line?Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      That you’re claiming otherwise is trolling at its finest but nothing more.

      Sure, Sam. You know me; the League’s finest troll.Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

        @james-hanley In that you’re accusing me of hypocrisy without specifically explaining how exactly I’m being a hypocrite, what else can be concluded? But, for the sake of a back and forth, I’ll ask again: how is what I’m saying hypocritical?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        I didn’t use the H word. I said youare employing a double standard, and above on this page I’ve already explained why.

        Additionally, since you’ve already defined me as a troll, I don’t think you will hear anything I might say. Look at what Todd’s saying, and look at Chris’s “vengeance” comment. I am fully in agreement with them.Report

  37. Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

    @tod-kelly My having lent financial assistance to bigoted campaigns is news to me. If I have done so, I would like the chance to publicly make a statement expressing my profound apologies for having done so. However, in that I have rarely spent $1000 on anything, I find it shocking that I might have forgotten the time in which I voluntarily lent financial assistance to a campaign predicated on the notion that gays are a subhuman group of people who pose a clear and present danger to children everywhere.

    Per the idea of “casting out,” I will continue to make the same request: please point me toward where I advocated for doing so. I have simply said – again, and again, and again, and again – that those who make political statements are open to criticism, and that includes those in positions of considerable power. Whether I agree or disagree with the criticism is absolutely immaterial to the concept that those who speak should be prepared to have that speech criticized. I am baffled by the idea that free speech stops after the first comment is made, as if a rigorous back and forth (the kind that exists in all kinds of places, like comment threads, for example) represents a serious threat to our ability to speak freely.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      @sam-wilkinson “My having lent financial assistance to bigoted campaigns is news to me. If I have done so, I would like the chance to publicly make a statement expressing my profound apologies for having done so. However, in that I have rarely spent $1000 on anything, I find it shocking that I might have forgotten the time in which I voluntarily lent financial assistance to a campaign predicated on the notion that gays are a subhuman group of people who pose a clear and present danger to children everywhere.”

      That’s a most deft and skilled grasping of a single thread to avoid the entire point of my comment.Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

        @tod-kelly Context surely matters. This isn’t a case of a man who voted privately to support something. This is a man who lent material support to an incredibly ugly campaign against gays. The specifics of his case matter. Surely there a difference between giving $1000 to support outright bigotry and not giving $1000 to support outright bigotry.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        Of course context matters. Again, I’m not saying that Eich’s position is defendable.

        I’m saying that if you go into voter & donor records from 2008 and use what you find to target specific people who were anti-SSM (when *most* people were) — while forgiving others more “like you” for doing the same or even worse — then I don’t buy that what’s really going on is “taking a stand against bigotry.” To me, that smacks of taking a stand against certain people on the other side of your self-made fence who also, coincidently, happen to be bigots.

        Now, if you, Sam, personally don’t, haven’t, and never would support — through your vote, your donations, or your consuming wallet — anyone who was supportive of “traditional marriage” in 2008, then my hat’s off to you for being consistent in a way almost no one else who supported Eich’s removal is. And I mean that: being consistent is good. But it does bring up a whole host of follow-ups about line drawing:

        Why 2008? Why not go back to, say 1998 — or 1988? Why not start identifying the corporate, political, or community leaders who were pro-traditional marriage then and advocate for their removal from whatever office they hold today?

        Hell, back in the early 70s my parents were against the idea of blacks and white marrying and having children. They changed their opinion over time of course, but does that really excuse them for having mainstream ideas that we now know are incorrect when they did? Should they have been limited later in life to what jobs they could hold, or how much money they could earn, or how visible they could be in public? We know from the Eich case 6 years afterward wouldn’t be enough time for them to have those things — why not 16 too? Why not 26?

        So yeah, you can declare yourself one of like 0.001 % of the people in this country who not only didn’t support traditional marriage in 2008, but also didn’t (and won’t) support any candidates/businesses/employers that ever did. So good for you and all, but what do we do with the other 300 million people in the country? Because after we’re done patting you on the back, we still need to figure out how to best manage the country.Report

      • NobAkimoto NobAkimoto says:

        Tod, you’re missing the point that Creon, zic, et. al have been making ad nauseum: Eich’s resignation had more to do with his reaction to the revelations than with the revelations itself.

        The problem isn’t that he had the “wrong” views, it’s that he refused to do so much as acknowledge that said views and actions had harmed people his organization was expected to work with. That’s a different kettle of fish.Report

      • Avatar Sam Wilkinson says:

        @tod-kelly If the specifics matter, then your other examples (voice, vote) don’t count here, because nobody’s criticizing Eich for either his voice or his vote. He was criticized for his having lent substantial financial support to a viciously anti-gay campaign. There are no doubt many CEOs who lent vote or voice in support of all sorts of things, including opposition to marriage equality. But I don’t remember seeing those lists being passed around. I remember Eich’s, because he went farther than simply privately supporting a political outcome. He voluntarily decided to fund it.

        As for the notion of “limiting” where opponents of interracial marriage were/are allowed to work:

        1. Nobody has proposed to legally limit where opponents of gay marriage are allowed to work.
        2. Which is not what can be said for Eich, who has not only proposed but spent money on purchasing regulations defining where certain people are allowed to do things.

        But let’s turn the question around for you – let’s suppose that one of your parents had become the CEO of a major company. Are you saying it’s out of bounds to criticize their opposition to interracial marriage?

        Finally, the notion that I’m asking to be patted on the back is nonsense. I’m absolutely certain that I have supported candidates who backed things that I did not and do not now agree with. But there is a difference between casting a vote and donating $1000. There is also a significant difference between accounting for ones behavior (which I will happily do) and concluding that not only is it beyond the pale to even mention it, but that doing so constitutes a violation of my free speech rights. It’s this last part that is specifically important, because it is what (I think) we’re arguing about.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        @tod-kelly — But no one is suggesting what you are suggesting, which makes your challenges something of a straw man. What we are saying is more like this: Eich proved to be sufficiently odious in his views, which are not limited to this one campaign contribution, and he was in a position where not being a homophobe is sufficiently important, where we had enough social clout, that in this case we could show him the door.

        Would I show every homophobe the door, in every context? I don’t know. I surely don’t have the power to do that. But I do insist that homophobia is the mark of a terrible person, a thing deeply offensive, deeply hurtful, and utterly fucking unacceptable. And it was always thus, even if most people did not know that. I want it to be a black mark on a person’s name, something that decent people would not dare admit, and that when it is found in one’s past, apologies are quickly offered, positions clarified, comments walked back.

        It would even be nice if the change of heart was genuine. That would be best.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      I’m saying that if you go into voter & donor records from 2008 and use what you find to target specific people who were anti-SSM (when *most* people were) — while forgiving others more “like you” for doing the same or even worse — then I don’t buy that what’s really going on is “taking a stand against bigotry.” To me, that smacks of taking a stand against certain people on the other side of your self-made fence who also, coincidently, happen to be bigots.

      You do know can access those voter and donor records, right? That they are, in this case, public record by CA state law, and were public record when Eich made them?

      So don’t forget that both the Democratic and Republican political machines and corporations also have access to that information, probably already harvested that information and bundled it up in databases for all sorts of useful purposes? Just sayin’

      I don’t have much issue with citizens accessing and using the same information. It’s public, and that means you and I can know it, too.

      Adult people allow for other adult people to be complicated. But understand that when you make a donation that’s public under your state law, it’s public. With that donation, are expressing your right to free speech, and doing so in a public sphere. You are accepting the risk of censure from people who disagree with you.Report

      • While this is all true, the problem I have is that the purpose of these lists is to deter corruption and allow people to keep an eye on what their politicians are doing – sunlight is the best disinfectant and all that jazz (I’m not sure what disclosing donation lists in the case of referenda is supposed to disinfect, but that’s another topic altogether). They’re not intended as a database for keeping tabs on your neighbors’ political preferences.

        They can, of course, be used for that purpose, and that’s certainly something people should be aware of (though I somewhat doubt that at the time many donors to referenda campaigns in CA even knew that their donations would be public record). But that doesn’t mean that reliance on donation databases to research your neighbors is a social norm that should be encouraged.Report

      • Avatar zic says:


        You are suggesting a wonderful social norm; something in the realm of good manners.

        I would have to see evidence that this is happening to people, and not people in CEO positions, which I maintain hold a different standard of vetting, then a mid-level manager or janitor, before I would make laws limiting information. And I’d be a lot more interested in limiting the information people have about us that we don’t know then public records, which we can easily find how to access with a few google searches.

        (Often, public records are not on the internet, they are paper records. In my state, for example, transfer taxes on the sale of homes — based on the home’s sale price — are public record, and maintained by the municipality. It is the municipality’s choice wether or not to make those records available in an on-line database.)

        As to people not understanding what information is and is not public record, I’ve repeatedly said most people have little understanding; I agree this is a problem. In a nutshell, your court records are public, your phone records are not. Your party registration, that you voted in an election, petitions you’ve signed, and political contributions are (or should be) public, but your actual votes cast in the privacy of a voting booth are private. If a bank holds a mortgage on your home, it’s public record at your registry of deeds, but what you do in that home is private.* Any of those private things become public record if they are entered as evidence in court proceedings, though a judge may grant you privacy.

        * Privacy of the home is the troubling thing about Sterling; the sense that his conversation was private deserves careful consideration. My take is that his privacy does not outweigh her right to free association and speech, that she has the right to reveal what happens in the privacy of her home.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Here is a good resource on public records:

      • @zic That sounds about right to me. Oddly, the disclosure of the Sterling tapes doesn’t trouble me much at all, especially the more I learn about them. The thing that Sterling’s supporters keep ignoring is that this wasn’t a one-off racist comment. This was an actual act of racial discrimination against an employee and girlfriend. What’s worse is that it also makes clear that this discrimination is an ongoing practice. I don’t have a problem in the least with private parties documenting illegal activities that would otherwise not come to light.

        But in this case, it’s even more acceptable I think- he himself was the one who authorized the recording, and it now also seems that whoever released the recording was a friend of Stiviano’s. What is on that recording, it should be emphasized, is a form of domestic abuse, albeit a legal one, in addition to being probably illegal discrimination. Stiviano’s herself doesn’t seem to realize she’s being abused based on her comments this week.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        he himself was the one who authorized the recording

        That’s pretty fascinating from an individual psychology pov, and would appear to shoot some pretty big holes in the Extortion defense. What the hell was he thinking?Report

      • Avatar zic says:


        Dementia, from what I gather; he recorded conversations because he was having trouble with his memory. I don’t have much sympathy for him in general; but if this is true, there’s a line of elder abuse that needs examining in all this.

        The other is that if she was actually an employee, as she claims, releasing that tape can be perceived as an act of whistleblowing.Report

  38. Avatar wardsmith says:

    @mike-schilling I thought you’d finally gotten around to reading the link I’d posted above, but when I went to click on it, seems to have become broken. Here is the list of 8 things won’t get you banned by the NBA. If /this/ link gets broken then I’ll know that someone with front page status is messing with my posts. Sprewell didn’t get banned but did get suspended for awhile. Now if a white player chokes a black coach? We’ll have to wait and see if that ever happens to see what the results would be in Charles Barkley’s “Black NBA”.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      I tried to fix your original link, but there was no URL. This one works. (Was than an accusation, by the way? I hope not.)

      I remember the Sprewell thing vividly, being a Warriors fan. Not only was he not banned, the team couldn’t even fire him, so to avoid having to pay him they needed to arrange a trade before the season started. That was a lockout year, so there were only a few weeks of offseason in which to do that, and it would up being a fire sale.

      By the way, how do you feel about the fact that accusing the Secretary of Defense of accepting money from a completely fictitious terrorist group doesn’t get you banned from Breitbart?Report

  39. Avatar Simonzee1 says:

    Veronica Dire you a typically naive uneducated person my guess between 18-30 who went through a crap education system.

    All this left wing fascism toppling C.E.O’s or actions against Sterling is not the spreading of democracy but of covert behaviour of the great earthly “I am” shaking his fist up to the real relational “I AM” in heaven. You can see the small ” I am” at work like U.S Aid in Cuba and NGO’s coming in with a rampant version of individual rights preaching to the masses…having no sensitivities to tradition and culture..Ask yourself…how is society getting better in the West? Give me three examples as a challenge with a long term picture for the benifit of us as human beings. You will struggle in an environment of greater mental health issues.

    So what post-modern culture really is…is a searching…souless being who is living in a spoilt and depraved culture of individual rights which has been fragmented by a marketing culture. It’s express marketing vision is to see the “I am” positioned as a person alienated from family structures and in this insecure state vulnerable to feeling to fat….too miserable…in need of this and that….People working as NGO’s are on a path hoping to liberate themselves from being the great “I am” through being alive to “an other”… seeking the excitement of making contact with another culture with the great “I am” seeking a sense of purpose and identity. It is a twenty something person seeking greater meaning….given the vision of such by an NGO but seeking to change the world without knowing oneself..That is a dangerous mix of uncertainty that we see in the toxic mix of the Arab Spring. These journalists have a greater sense of arrogance of “I am” working for Western news agencies. The trouble is many of these are now in jail because they represent the Western outlets who proclaimed people who carried guns and burnt buildings ad peaceful protestors in the early days of revolution. Impatient for inducing chamge the Hillary Clintons and Kerry’s are making things worse and the lies come along the way or the inducing of coups like in the Ukraine.

    The question now is who wins this cultural war. The lost souls of the great “I am” or the faith followers of the great “I AM.”

    My words to those Christians who are killing Muslims and Muslims killing Christians is that you are serving the great “I am” not the great “I AM” because he is a God of justice…forgiveness and mercy and both Christian and Muslim know this to be true…. even those wielding the machete. You are competing for resources…land and you will kill…stral and destroy for it like the “I am’s” of these corporations.

    At least missionaries in most cases went in with a clear sense of identity and a desire to serve beyond tge great “I am.” If they were rejected they were killed. They did not have peacekeeping troops accompanying them and in the case of Equador in “The End of the Spear.” In that case their wives went in after their husbands were killed and actually saved tribes from anhilating each other other completely in blood feuds.

    It is the multi-nationals that come in behind these missionaries and in the current state of play NGO’s that are created by these companies that are full of great “I am’s” that I mention above. They cannot appreciate tradition and culture because their ideas on freedom revolve around less cultural diversity and the pushing of the great “I am” of a merketing and capitalist culture. These NGO workers are most often honest….but lost individuals in life…seeking to make a difference but pushed around the chess board by the great “I am’s” of the corporations led by a the great “I am” C.E.O. There is always the pretense of concern but never a relational richness and in the end the noble NGO servant goes home unfilfilled like George Clooney with a sense of hopelessness. Well if you were part of an organization like U.S Aid or the U.N who do not go in with the primary inspiration of relational concern then it will fail. These corporations work of a failure prediction model….hiw quick they can get in and out and what they will get for this as a risk. NGO’s that they fund just help them to keep the window of opportunity open that little longer.

    What does the chief “I am” live for but the god of money. For those who have been brainwashed into despising religion…tradition and custom…look at them as creations of extended history not of as naive constructs as the marketing culture of “I am” will tell you.

    George Orwell gave us a picture of the end of “I am” society in 1984. The older I get there is beauty in diversity in humanity as much as there is in nature. Would we allow all animals to be extinct for a few or seek to preserve the lot. People must turn against the “I am” culture more than the “I AM” culture but the U.S and Brussels are determined to blame religion and Russia for their problems. Never the corporations.Report

    • Avatar zic says:


      It’s not nice to presume things about people you don’t know. And insulting people is really rude. You should apologize to Veronica.

      But good luck fishing for converts for your creed of corporate anti-intellectualism; I don’t know that you’ll find many here. The folks who hang here are pretty dedicated to individual civil liberties, you know, that, “I AM” culture.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      Veronica Dire you a typically naive uneducated person my guess between 18-30 who went through a crap education system.

      Yeah, Veronica. Don’t think your ability to spell, punctuate, and combine well-formed sentences and paragraphs into a coherent argument fools us into thinking you’re educated.Report

    • Avatar veronica dire says:

      Uh … OMG!

      This is not quite at the Timecube level, but at least I got mentioned!Report

    • Avatar Mo says:

      @simonzee1 Should the head of the LA NAACP who lost his job over the Sterling flap also be reinstated?Report

  40. Avatar veronica dire says:

    @stillwater —Down here!

    Yeah, precisely.

    I’ve noticed something else, which probably relates to privilege, at least to some degree that is worth thinking about and I hope people will explore the idea.

    Anyway, it goes like this: I don’t much like to argue about moral abstractions, slippery slopes, categorical imperatives, things that become “principles,” and so on. I notice a lot of folks do. Those folks, in my experience, are very often quite privileged.

    Okay, look, not always all the time. But often enough I notice.

    I on the other hand like to talk about the specifics, the actuals, not some pattern that resembles in some detached way some other thing from long ago, but the patterns that are “live” in the here and now, active in society today.

    Some folks like to argue, “Look at this thing that happened long ago during the wars of religion and how, if you squint really hard, it might in some wildly distant way resemble this other thing.”

    To them, that is a moral argument.

    Myself, I say, “Here is this thing that happened last week to my friend. Here is this other thing that happened to me. See how similar they are.”

    All the dire predictions about witch hunts and queer overreach are not going to happen. Joe in the server room won’t get fired for his blog, at least not very often, nowhere near the frequency that LGBT people are fired. That said, homophobes such as Joe are going to find themselves increasingly unpopular, their ideas marginal, and their opportunities to advance limited by how loudly they proclaim their hate. And I’m glad.Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      You don’t have to squint that hard. You are using the same sort of reasoning to inflict a much milder harm on someone. When I criticise your reasoning, I’m primarily doing just that. If you can’t offer reasons for inflicting a harm on someone that you on reflection would think are good ones then you shouldn’t inflict said harm. Part of our moral practice is that we actually give reasons to one another to justify our actions to one another. If you can’t provide good reasons, you probably aren’t doing it right. Saying that you are not in the business of abstractions is just a cop out.

      My own point is not about possible witch hunts which have already affected you and other trans-people. My point is that the fact that they have wronged you does not give you the excuse to wrong them.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        We’re not simply “wronging” this man for its own sake, and this is exactly the sort of detached observation I am talking about. It totally removes the social context of being LGBT and working in a world run by people of who detest us, and how this is ongoing, and how we work to change the situation.

        One way, of course, is to change the “hearts and minds” of the homophobes. And we do that. Quite a lot. Quite successfully. But what about the hold-outs, those whose hate is baked in, and who will not change?

        Assertion: if you are not LGBT then you have no standing to suggest we wait, or be patient, or any such thing. This is a conflict, a social struggle, and those who hate us — they hurt us, actively and ongoing. The evidence of this is overwhelming.

        It is clear this man is an unapologetic homophobe. Such people cannot be trusted in positions of authority and influence, particularly in a field such as tech, at a company such as Mozilla. Removing him from power is not mere pettiness. It is not revenge. If you think it is, you don’t know what you are talking about.

        A company must show good judgement. Take Joe in the server room. Is Joe a homophobe? Maybe, but so what? — as long as he is not in-your-face about it the company will go on.

        Is Joe a senior director?

        Why on Earth would you put someone like that in such a position, unless you have zero respect for your LGBT employees?

        Or should we just agree to get along?

        Is anyone here really so clueless that they could suggest the problem is LGBT people are unwilling to just get along?Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        “Detached observation” is how we recognize that harm is wrong regardless of the identities of the harmer and the harmed, rather than seeing harm as wrong only because it happens to us. The classic ideal that justice is blind (to status/identities) is the ideal of detached observation; the Hatfields and the McCoys are the antithesis of detached judgement. It does no good to say if you’re not a Hatfield you have no standing to speak to how they ought to respond to the McCoys.

        That said, there’s no doubt that those who are not the harmed can miss much of the detail of what’s really going on. MLK was not wrong to critique other ministers’ calls for patience. But an informed detached perspective–and who could be more detached from the position of southern African-Americans in the 1950s than a northern white guy like me?–can recognize that patience was not the appropriate response at that time.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        Why on Earth would you put someone like that in such a position, unless you have zero respect for your LGBT employees?

        Because you respect everyone enough to expect that they would keep things professional.

        Is anyone here really so clueless that they could suggest the problem is LGBT people are unwilling to just get along?

        It seems like that just seems to be the case in this particular altercation. More accurately, I think that maybe some LGBT persons or allies were unwilling in this case to just get along.

        It is clear this man is an unapologetic homophobe.

        I’ll take your word for it

        Such people cannot be trusted in positions of authority and influence, particularly in a field such as tech, at a company such as Mozilla.

        This hardly seems obvious. Does he have a track record of having his politics influence his business practices?

        Does he casually insult is LGBT employees when on the job?

        Can the mere existence of a past political donation reasonably create a hostile work environment? I don’t know how this is possible. You’d have to be an intolerant busybody for this to be the case.

        Has he done anything else that we could reasonably expect to create a hostile work environment?

        What is it about the tech industry and Mozilla in particular that preclude homophobes from positions of power? That is to say, that I’ve read the manifesto and nothing about Mozilla’s manifesto says one thing or another that would give us reason to think that Mozilla qua company should take any position on the political donations of its high level executives.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        And the same people who object to Eich’s losing the CEO job for his political opinions were horrified when Ward Churchill and Norman FInkelstein were denied tenure for theirs.

        Wait …Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        This whole conversation becomes very difficult, as I seem to be arguing with people who insist on ignoring what homophobia actually is, and who instead want argue about things that are not homophobia.

        An analogy will take you so far, but no farther.

        To the war of religion, arguably there is no reason Catholics and Protestants can’t get along. In fact, experience shows me they can get along very well. I grew up in a Protestant home. I had Catholic friends. (In fact, I had Jewish friends. Were I a child today, no doubt my parents would encourage me to have Muslim friends. That’s how my family rolls.)

        There is no reason LGBT people and Christians cannot get along. In fact, I get along fine with many Christians. Lovely people.

        There is no reason LGBT people and (for example) libertarians cannot get along. In fact, I’m friends with a real-life transsexual libertarian. (Yeah, I don’t get it either, but I assure you she exists.)

        Likewise for (certain kinds of) conservatives. On and on, one big happy family working through our differences.

        I get that. Totally behind it. Yay!

        But unapologetic homophobes, those with a history of using state power against me? Thems a different story. See, those folks are very loud regarding what they think of me, what they want to happen to me, the value of my love, my life.

        I ain’t fucking stupid. I know what guys like Eich think of me.

        No, me and mine cannot get along with guys like him. But this is not our doing.

        Here is the final point: I cannot stop being transsexual; it doesn’t work that way. Likewise, I cannot stop being bisexual. That’s baked in.

        Obviously religious people can stop being religious, but I would not ask them to. I get how important religion is. It is not quite the same as identity, but close enough.

        But people can stop being bigots. In fact, we should demand it. Being a bigot is not like being gay, or being Catholic, or being a socialist or a libertarian or liking guns. It is a different sort of thing.

        It is utterly fucking unacceptable.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        And I have to add, comparing the struggles of LGBT people versus bigotry to the Hatfields and the McCoys is just fucking offensive.

        You can see that, yes?

        This thing you’re doing, please stop.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        In fact, I’m friends with a real-life transsexual libertarian. (Yeah, I don’t get it either, but I assure you she exists.)

        There’s also Deirdre McCloskey. But you’re right. It’s nuts. Why would someone whose life is plagued by other people not minding their own damn business be attracted to a political philosophy that essentially boils down to “Mind your own damn business?”Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        I may have mentioned this before, but a trans woman of longstanding IRL acquaintance is a hardcore Republican.

        The personal and the political are not always linked in the stereotypical ways.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        And I have to add, comparing the struggles of LGBT people versus bigotry to the Hatfields and the McCoys is just fucking offensive.
        You can see that, yes?


        This thing you’re doing, please stop.


        Look, I’m not asking you to “get along” with bigots, or to have any sympathy for them. I’m saying harming others is wrong, even when they’re bigots. You don’t like that, then too fishing bad, because I’m not going to stop saying it.

        I’m with you all the way on demanding equality and an end to discrimination. But I won’t stand with you on vengeance.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        @glyph — It takes all kinds.

        Just curious, do you know when she transitioned? I’m wondering if it was in the 90’s or before.

        There does seem to be a generational divide, with those of us post-90’s holding some very different views from those who transitioned in the 90’s and before. Furthermore, among those who transitioned before, there is a huge gap between the middle class women, who could afford medical transition, and poor women, who largely could not. The latter sort ended up in the drag scene. The former sort less so. Also there was a huge divide between those eligible for medical transition (who were required to be pretty — no seriously) and those who did not fit that mold.

        Doctors denied care based on “passability.” It was really gross.

        (Julia Serano has uncovered case notes where doctors admitted that their own sexual desire was a contributing factor.)

        Also women were really expected to “fit in” as a women, fully, which meant enacting whatever sexist attitudes the doctors had about women and their roles. Trans women were trained on this stuff.

        (Yes, feminism matters.)

        So, yeah, fuck that shit. I define what a women is by being me.

        Anyway, this generational divide gets really ugly sometimes. If you’re curious about the latest imbroglio, Google about Parker Marie Malloy versus Calpernia Addams. Lots of fun drama.

        (I’m on Parker’s side.)Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        @jm3z-aitch — This is not about vengeance. It never was, at least not for me, and I hope not for anybody. Instead, it was about the quality of leadership of an important company, the role this man plays, and the circumstances of the LGBT employees who work for him, and the LGBT public who might want to use his product.

        Note, this is my industry. I don’t work for Mozilla, but I could. Or this guy could apply at my company, in which case, were he hired to a position of influence, I would have to resign. I suspect many of my LGBT coworkers would as well, just the same as many blacks would resign if a klansman was put in charge. (I suspect that many LGBT employees at Mozilla were getting their resumes ready after this story broke, and breathed a sigh of relief when this fucker stepped down.)

        Of course, in the past we would not resign. We would suck it up, or stay quiet, hide who we were — because we know what it means to be a faggot in the boardroom.

        (My hairdresser told me a story of how, back in the day, he and his now-husband would drive separate cars to their corporate, to avoid the rumors.)

        (Until they said, fuck this, and learned to cut hair.)

        (They also told a story of their first Boston Pride march, when men showed up wearing bags over their heads. When they told me this, I cried.)

        We ain’t putting up with this shit anymore. Too many good companies are out there, at least in tech, where I don’t have to hide, or feel ashamed, or any such thing. Nor do I have to worry much that my boss hates me.

        I’m not going to work for a shitty homophobe. Why should I?

        Homophobia is not okay, and I do not have the luxury of regarding as a topic of debate. I live it. It visits me at home.

        Removing this man from a position of authority was the correct decision, for the sake of the employees and stakeholders.

        If you insist on seeing this according to the vengeance model, then that’s on you.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        James, right, that’s been my objection to Sam’s position is that it’s about vengeance. I mean, I agree that in both cases they had to go, but the reasons why they had to go are important. Eich getting what some people think he deserves for his political positions is a dangerous reason.

        Also, a strictly situational ethics is no ethics at all.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        It is not about vengeance. It is about suitability to lead in a culture fully accepting of LGBT people.

        I cannot make this more clear. At this point, I have to assume that those who do not understand do not want to understand.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        At this point, I have to assume that those who do not understand do not want to understand.

        Eh, piss off.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        @jm3z-aitch — When you tell me what motivates me, and I say repeatedly, nope, that isn’t it, and I explain it again, then who should do the pissing off?

        This is not about vengeance. Do you get that?Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        I remain on your side for equality and non-discrimination. Doesn’t mean I think you’re right about many things, though.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Someone in this thread made it look like vengeance was the issue for him. I have to assume that anyone who doesn’t recognize that hasn’t read the thread.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        And the same people who object to Eich’s losing the CEO job for his political opinions were horrified when Ward Churchill and Norman FInkelstein were denied tenure for theirs.

        Wait …

        I wasn’t aware that these people lost tenure because of their opinions. That is wrong and goes against the idea of academic freedom.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        Not sure about Finklestein, but Churchill was, ostensibly at least, fired for academic misconduct. I don’t know enough about the details of the case to say whether that was the real reason, but it’s worth noting that there were allegations of misconduct prior to the controversy over his “little Eichmanns” comment.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        Fair enough. I won’t say that no one, nowhere was motivated by vengeance in this case. But on the other hand, I don’t see why it matters much. There are lots of people. Many things will happen. But I insist there were plenty of good reasons to oppose this man being CEO, plenty of good reasons to show him the door.

        That said, I want to go back to the Hatfield-McCoy thing, and the war of religion thing, and explain why I find that offensive.

        It is very simple: how many Hatfields got killed by a McCoy? A bunch, right? During the wars of religion, how many Protestants were killed by Catholics? Vice versa? A huge, terrifying, staggering number, right?

        Looking back through history that all seems so unnecessary. I’m sure all here agree. There was just no good reason for these people to be fighting and dying.

        But it did not seem that way to them. I get that. To a McCoy, a Hatfield just needed killing.

        So are we LGBT folks like that?

        Let us turn to Google. Please, together everyone, let us Google “transgender murder.”

        Let us count how many of mine have been killed, and in turn how many cis people we trans folks have killed. Go ahead. It’s an easy count.

        You will notice a pattern emerge, one very different from what happened during the Hatfields and McCoys.

        Try it now with “gay murder” and “lesbian murder.”

        A fun one is “transgender bathroom assault.”

        Try other terms such as “fired” or “beaten.”

        Now consider all the ones that are not so easy to search, “unemployed,” “runaway,” “sex worker,” “abuse.”

        Go ahead, sum up the butcher’s bill.

        Now go ahead and make your shitty comparison again! Just go ahead.

        There are degrees of callous, moral cluelessness that stagger the mind.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Churchill had tenure. He was dismissed for academic misconduct, which was very real, but a jury determined that he would not have been dismissed if it weren’t for his political writings (their findings were later overturned, because it was determined that the university had a certain amount of legal immunity that covered them in this case).

        To the other issue in this subthread, I think most people here agree that Eich had to go. The issue is why, and that is important, as the Churchill case shows. While Churchill’s expressed views were extreme, there was a time, not so long ago, when being anti-war was so unpopular that getting fired for it was not outside the realm of possibility.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:


        When you’re not telling me to shut up you’re seemingly looking hard for a reason to take offense. An actual conversation with you seems impossible–everything is pitched in a tone of “you shut up and listen to me, because only I can speak about this at all.”

        Yeah, I get that you have insight into the specifics that I don’t, which is why I listen. But I also get that oppression of unpopular minorities is an ugly regularity throughout human history, so while your situation has its unique aspects, it’s not wholly unique. We can relate it to other historical examples. And those historical examples you sneer at as abstract, not related to your concrete experience? Real people were raped, beaten, starved, tortured and killed in those cases, too. While you insist on the significance of your real concrete experience, you wave your hands at theirs. You demand for yourself what you don’t offer them.

        Further, you implicitly demand that we ignore history, that we not learn from it, that we not use it as a tool to understand the here and now. I suspect it’s because when we do, we come independently to our own thoughts on transgender issues, whereas you repeatedly tell us that because of our privilege, we can’t have any understanding, that only you (here at the OT, not only you overall) can bring us to any understanding of the issues.

        But the oppression of transgender people isn’t unique; it’s just another all-too-familiar chapter in the sordid history of humanity. We need people like you to wake us up to it, of that I have no doubt. And only you can tell us the ways in which you experience it, and the emotional and psychological toll it takes. But your personal ecperience is not the whole story, so I listen to your personal knowledge and fit it into that larger body of knowledge I have about humanity and its history. i interpret it through that lens, and ultimately reach my own conclusions.

        If you find that offensive, I’ll just have to live with that.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Just curious, do you know when she transitioned? I’m wondering if it was in the 90’s or before.

        In the late 80’s (high school) she presented as male (apologies if these are not the preferred terms). By the early 90’s she presented as female. No idea if/when surgical/medical steps were taken (she’s a friend of friends, so I don’t know her well enough to ask her these sorts of questions; I assume a hormone regime at minimum); all I know is that by the ’90s, if upon meeting her you didn’t already know she used to present as male, you would never guess it. She’s a beautiful woman. And very, very Republican.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        @jm3z-aitch — I’m not telling you to shut up now, so I would like it if we could let that go.

        On “looking to be offended” — seriously, dude?

        On the rest of your point, I do not ignore history. On the other hand, drawing a line from a man being fired to the wars of religion is a pretty extreme analogy. And when you deploy an extreme analogy, expect it to be examined and challenged.

        For example, if Eich’s being fired really was in any real sense like the Sack of Magdeburg, I would be appalled. But was it? Does that analogy actually work, or is it silly, over-the-top rhetoric deserving its own Godwin’s law?

        See, the thing is I did not bring up the wars of religious, others did. But I seriously thought about it. And as I did I noticed something: in the wars of religion, there was extreme violence on both sides, for many years (centuries depending on how you want to count).

        In the case of LGBT people, the violence kinda goes one way, along with a heaping dose of overwhelming, life-destroying oppression.

        And that is how this differs from the examples you and others have brought up. And that is why this offends me. We’ve done a lot of dying (and I include some percentage of AIDS deaths, given the cynical mishandling by the Reagan administration). And even when we have lived, often we struggled to find peace and happiness in a world that hates us.

        In balance, we got this one guy fired.

        I mean, that is real history also. History has things like the wars of religion, where both sides are to blame. But it also has genocides and apartheids and lasting forms of oppression, where one side stomps on the other.

        Which of these does LGBT oppression more resemble?

        Wanna give an answer?

        Short version on Eich: I would not work for such a man, since I could not trust him. The ideologies with which he is connected are too grotesque. Nope. Furthermore, I cannot be the only LGBT person who feels this way, so in solidarity to my fellows I opposed him, in small ways. I am glad a number of straight allies felt similarly. I am glad he stepped down.

        I hope he now goes on to rethink his position. Many others have. Will he?

        That’s up to him.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        @glyph — Ah, yes. She fits a type.

        That said, she is my sister and I wish her nothing but happiness.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        You can question whether somebody holds views that are inappropriate for the CEO of a particular company to hold without it being an act of vengeance. Sometimes there are just legitimate questions about whether certain views are appropriate for the head of an organization to hold. Assuming that “Hurt Brendan Eich by any means necessary” was the the goal is the wrong way to look at it.

        I don’t seriously believe that those who say that the people on the receiving end of discrimination should just chill out and let him be in charge would say the same thing to black employees of a company that just promoted a segregationist to CEO. “He may be for separate drinking fountains, but he’s a professional. He’ll probably treat you OK, and if he doesn’t, we have your back,” just doesn’t sound like something I’d read here.

        I think there’s a tendency to tolerate Eich’s views more because they were tolerated more recently and may remind us of views we ourselves remember holding. That’s a great reason for us not to want to take bloody vengeance on the man, but it doesn’t make those views any more appropriate for the CEO of Mozilla than any other type of bigotry from the more distant past. We shouldn’t confuse those two things.

        You can get away with that confusion with a segregationist CEO: He’s a bad guy, so he deserves a kick in the balls. Simultaneously, the company needs a more appropriate CEO, so it’s all good and we cheer for that result. But Brendan Eich reminds us of our friends and family, or of the person we used to be not too long ago, so we don’t think it’s right to kick him in the balls. And it’s probably not. But Mozilla still needs a different CEO.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:


        No one is saying that the level of harm inflicted is any way similar. What we are asking you to do is to extend the reasoning that would justify something like the first amendment and apply it to your case. Yes, the stakes are much lower for the bigot’s side and yes, lots of people on your side get the raw end of the deal. Explain to me again how these facts are relevant to Eich’s non-CEO-ship in a way that has nothing to do with vengeance?

        Now, let’s deal with the narrower claim “No bigot should ever be a CEO*”. How bigoted should one be before one gets disqualified for CEO ship? If a CEO pursues actively discriminatory workplace policies, then he shouldn’t be CEO. If a CEO makes derogatory remarks, that would be a strong reason to not be CEO. A past political donation to a bigoted cause which was so much smaller than the size of the total campaign and had a negligible impact of the success of that campaign? Moreover, that donation being one which he has publicly apologised for and which was made at a time when bigotry was more common and a bigotry which it seems he has since rejected? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. Show me some evidence that Eich would have continued to express bigoted opinions or would have continued to donate to bigoted causes if you don’t want to seem paranoid.
        This seems like a sincere apology and expression of regret for past harms he caused. Maybe he is insincere. But given the number of people who were against gay marriage then but are not now, there is little reason to think that Eich is not among those who learnt better.
        *Or at least in most cases.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        @murali — You fall down here:

        “Moreover, that donation being one which he has publicly apologised for and which was made at a time when bigotry was more common and a bigotry which it seems he has since rejected?”

        Eich did not apologize, nor show the slightest hints that he had at all changed his mind regarding marriage. Had he apologized, I doubt any of this would have happened.

        If you search this page for the term “unapologetic,” you’ll discover that I used it a number of times. I chose that term deliberately.

        You must have missed that detail.

        Would I work for a former homophobe, who has repented? Yes, indeed I would. I would consider it a privilege to work with such a person, who has travelled such a path.

        (That is not lip service. I seriously admire people who grow and change.)

        Eich is not one of these people. Perhaps someday he will be.

        And no, I do not believe that blog thingy of his you posted. It is thick with corporate-speak, the sort of thing managers churn out daily. I believe it as much as I believe a “mission statement.” A change of heart, to be convincing, should precede the spotlight, and it should not simply restate company policies that are mostly required by law and otherwise found among the company’s competitors. Of course he said all of that.

        Plus, in his case, a statement such as “I was wrong about gay marriage and I sincerely regret my support for that awful, unjust cause” would have been worth a lot.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:


        I wonder what it says about me that I believed his blog thingy.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        @murali — I don’t know. I mean, obviously it is an issue of perspective.

        You’re not in the US, right? (I’m not confusing you with someone?) You’re not LGBT? (You don’t have to tell me or anything, but I think these things matter.)

        ’Cause, see, I am putting myself in the position of a queer employee at that company, and asking “would I trust this guy?” — knowing all I know about how the gay marriage debate played out, how we were demonized, all the propaganda this man no doubt read and supported — and he did support it; he helped pay for it — and how we are still demonized — these folks are gearing up to go after trans people now; the propaganda war has begun; it’s terrible — and how this guy just comes across in other stuff he’s done and said.

        Nope. Don’t trust him.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        @murali — Also, do you work at a corporate-style company? In these places, the boss’s blog/newsletter/whatever is seldom a truth carrying medium. They are always carefully crafted little exercises in dummy-talk. One learns to read between the lines.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:


        Right now I’m a grad student who is pretty desperate for almost any job. I’d work for a company in which the CEO was racist if I could be certain of outlasting the guy (CEOs get rotated around) or if my own immediate supervisors were people I was comfortable working with.Report

      • Avatar veronica dire says:

        @murali — Fair enough.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Right now I’m a grad student who is pretty desperate for almost any job.

        This, by the way, points at one of the most important reasons for getting rid of bigoted management and executives. Most people don’t have a whole lot of choice in where they work, so just leaving because you learn that the person running the place thinks you are a lesser human being, or a lower class citizen, because of your race or your religion or your sexual orientation or your SES or whatever, is either not an option for most people, or an option that will cause serious, serious problems in their lives.Report

  41. Avatar Simonzee1 says:

    The same card carrying Democrat TMZ guy Levine who went after Stirling went after Gibson. There is most definitely a left wing elitest group within Hollywood. As Hollywood admitted they discriminated against Conservative script writers for over 30 years. It is no wonder that Obama trashes America overseas and at home as he says that Hollywood best represents American values. What does he want to do next….put the Hollwood sign above the Statue of Liberty? And let us not forget how this left wing fascism plays out with international law with Ukraine….”They must have a different set of lawyers.” What he meant to say is “You don’t own the judge.” This is the arrogance of a fascist who cannot take any criticism and deals in absolutes…it is staggeringly ignorant and defensive after pumping 500 million dollars of illegal arms into Libya with his Sunni partners.

    This is a president that epitomizes a fascist mentality by avoiding dealing with debatel and Congress by signing executive orders as if they were blank cheques.Report

  42. Avatar Simonzee1 says:

    Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

    C.S. LewisReport

  43. Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

    Speaking of Dr Rice, she accepted an offer to speak at the 2014 Rutgers Commencent.

    After objections from the faculty and a small group of students, Rice has decided to ultimately decline the invitation.

    Sad day for Rutgers. Sad day for New Jersey. Sad day for America. #NoSarcasmReport

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      And a sad day for California. (The one where she’s going to stay here instead of going to New Jersey.)

      She was complicit in torture. You don’t honor that.Report

    • Avatar Creon Critic says:

      A sad day for America indeed:

      Top Bush aides, including Vice President Cheney, micromanaged the torture of terrorist suspects from the White House basement, according to an ABC News report aired last night.

      Discussions were so detailed, ABC’s sources said, that some interrogation sessions were virtually choreographed by a White House advisory group. In addition to Cheney, the group included then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, then-secretary of state Colin Powell, then-CIA director George Tenet and then-attorney general John Ashcroft.

      At least one member of the club had some qualms. ABC reports that Ashcroft “was troubled by the discussions. He agreed with the general policy decision to allow aggressive tactics and had repeatedly advised that they were legal. But he argued that senior White House advisers should not be involved in the grim details of interrogations, sources said.

      “According to a top official, Ashcroft asked aloud after one meeting: ‘Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly.‘”… [ ]


    • Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

      The new 2014 Rutgers Commencement speaker will be Thomas Kean.

      He was governor of New Jersey from 1982-1990, and was the chairman of The 9/11 Commission.Report

  44. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Continuing the Eich discussion down here.

    Thought experiment:

    You’re a person of color. Your company’s new CEO has written a lot on HBD and his belief that certain groups, including yours, simply isn’t as smart on average as others (including, oddly enough, his.) At his first all-hands meeting, he addresses the issue obliquely, saying “I see everyone as an individual. If you’re a smart, talented, hard worker who makes a big contribution, you’re going to succeed here. Nothing else matters.”

    1. Do you believe him?
    2. Do you stay, or start looking for another job?
    3. If you’re uncomfortable about the guy, do you say anything about that publicly?

    If you don’t work there but the company is one of your vendors, is it reasonable to switch to one of its competitors?Report

    • Avatar Murali says:

      1. Do you believe him?

      Maybe. Depends on how sincere he sounds.

      2. Do you stay, or start looking for another job?
      Depends on whether I’m going to be in his radar. A CEO could be so far up the food chain from me that I only need to worry about my immediate supervisor. And if I am far enough up the food chain that I have a proven track record, I can sue his ass off if he discriminates against me.

      3. If you’re uncomfortable about the guy, do you say anything about that publicly?

      No. I’m not going to be the first person to muddy the waters.Report

  45. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Bill Simmons writes at Grantland about interacting with Sterling and Stiviano. (It’s a long piece. Search for “nearly one year ago” to get to the good part.) It’s mostly about what a colossal jerk Sterling is, but it also sheds light on her role. She wasn’t just arm candy, she was his assistant/minder/nanny.Report